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Crisis talks about the deep sea mining controversy

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image sources, London Museum of Natural History

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From anemones to worms: a number of strange creatures have been recovered from the Clarion-Clipperton Region in the Pacific Ocean.

Controversial proposals to allow deep-sea mining will be at the center of global discussions in Jamaica from Monday.

It comes after a two-year ban on the practice expired when states failed to agree on new rules.

Scientists fear that a potential “gold rush” for precious metals under the oceans could have devastating consequences for marine life.

But proponents argue that these minerals are essential if the world is to meet the demand for green technologies.

The controversy began in 2021 when the tiny Pacific island of Nauru submitted a formal application to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) — a United Nations body that oversees mining in international waters — for a license to begin deep sea mining.

This led to a ruling that puts the ISA over two years to review the application, despite having minimal regulations in place.

The countries have met regularly since then to try to finalize rules for environmental monitoring and revenue sharing, without success.

They have now met in Kingston, Jamaica, for three weeks of negotiations.

It comes as opposition to commercial deep-sea mining to harvest rocks containing valuable minerals grows.

Nearly 200 countries, including Switzerland, Spain and Germany, are calling for a moratorium or halt to the practice due to environmental concerns. Countries should now have the opportunity to vote on a new ban within the next month.

Although the UK has not called for a new ban, a government spokesperson told the BBC: “The UK will maintain its precautionary stance not to support the issuance of operating licenses at least until there is sufficient scientific evidence of the potential impact on deepwater . environmental…”

Marine scientists have raised concerns about the limited research of the ocean depths to understand the animals and plants that live there, and therefore the effects that deep-sea mining can have.

“We must not let this be another gold rush as we head toward more destruction for our planet without really understanding what we are doing,” said Katherine Wheeler, the association’s director of global policy.

image sources, Getty Images

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Activists take part in a rally to stop deep sea mining outside the European Parliament in March

Scientists recently announced that more than 5,000 different animals have been found in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean – a key area designated for future mining efforts.

ZCC and other mining areas such as the Pacific Prime Crust are unique environments with hydrothermal vents, seamounts, and vast plains up to 6,500 meters below the surface. Scientists believe they can support uniquely adapted species found nowhere else in the world.

Not all states are categorically against this practice. ISA has already awarded 31 exploration contracts to companies wishing to drill deep in the ocean and has sponsored 14 countries, including China, Russia, India, the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

ISA only allows contracts in international waters – countries are free to conduct exploration activities in their national waters. Norway last month controversially opened areas in the Greenland Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea covering an area of ​​280,000 square kilometers (108,000 square miles) for mining companies to apply for licences.

“We need minerals to make the green transition a success,” Oil and Energy Minister Terje Asland said in a statement.

The Metals Company, which partners with three Pacific Island nations – the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga – is determined to move forward with the bids.

He said the deep sea offers a promising source of minerals such as copper, cobalt and nickel needed for technologies such as mobile phones, wind turbines and electric car batteries.

Nick Pickens, director of global mining research at Wood Mackenzie, told the BBC that many of these minerals are relatively abundant on Earth but difficult to access.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has some of the highest copper grades in the world, faces violent ethnic conflicts in parts of the country.

There are also a limited number of slots for refining minerals – converting them from their raw form into useful ingredients.

“Deep-sea mining doesn’t necessarily solve any of these problems…the geopolitical challenges remain,” Pickens said.

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