Patagonia Calls for Moratorium on Seabed Mining
Volkswagen Group, Triodos Bank, and Patagonia today joined growing calls for a moratorium on the emerging deep-sea mining industry. The world’s second-biggest car manufacturer, leading ethical bank and sustainable outdoor clothing company have joined other major companies BMW Group, Volvo Group, Samsung SDI, Google, and Philips in pledging to keep minerals sourced from the deep sea out of their products.
In addition to putting the brakes on the rush to mine the deep sea, the statement signed by the companies also highlights the need to explore alternatives as a matter of urgency; reduce the demand for primary metals; develop responsible terrestrial mining practices, and transition to a closed-loop materials economy.
Dr. Frauke Eßer, Head of Global Supplier Risk and Sustainability Management, Volkswagen Group Purchasing: “Volkswagen is continuously working on sustainable mobility solutions for future generations. This includes high standards for responsibly shaped raw material supply chains. Seabed mining poses severe environmental risks that we take very seriously and that drives us to support the call for a moratorium.”
“The deep ocean is the largest carbon sink on our planet and a vital natural solution to climate change. We need to do everything in our power to protect rather than destroy this phenomenal ally. It is powerful to see leading companies recognise and take action on this.” – Jessica Battle, WWF No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative Leader.
“Triodos Bank’s mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental, and cultural change. In this time of unprecedented crisis relating to our natural world, Triodos Bank believes it is very important to implement a mortarium on deep-sea mining. There is no place for an industry that risks compromising the services to our planet that the deep ocean provides.” – Iris Lether, investment strategist, Triodos Investment Management, a subsidiary of Triodos Bank.
“Humans need to continue rapidly transitioning to renewable energy sources, but in a responsible manner. No matter what reasons we hear for mining the bottom of the ocean, we need to recognize that it would create grave ecological threats and risks disturbing carbon locked away in the deep, with limited opportunities for proper oversight. In our pursuit of renewable energy, we need to ensure that any essential mining is done in the most ecologically responsible way, which means no deep-sea mining. We cannot allow extractive industries to keep raiding our land and water for financial gain, and we need to move away from the model of capitalism that necessitates endless growth at the expense of the planet.” – Hans Cole, Head of Environmental Activism, Patagonia.
“It is fantastic to see Volkswagen Group, Triodos Bank, and Patagonia supporting ocean health for future generations by taking action on deep-sea mining and committing to keeping minerals from the ocean floor out of their products. We hope this will inspire more companies to take up the baton and defend this vital life-sustaining ecosystem by saying ‘no’ to deep-sea mining.” – Farah Obaidullah, Global Campaigner with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
The nascent deep-sea mining industry seeks to strip-mine materials 4-6 kilometres below the surface of the ocean, starting in the Pacific Ocean. The prospective mining companies argue the minerals are needed for new batteries, but breakthroughs in battery technology are evolving without them. The giga-scale Swedish battery manufacturer, Northvolt, for example, announced earlier this month that it has produced the first-ever lithium-ion battery cell with 100% recycled nickel, manganese, and cobalt.
The growing call from companies to safeguard the health of the deep ocean comes as scientists and policy experts continue to warn of the risks associated with deep-sea mining. More than 600 marine science & policy experts from over 44 countries have also called for a pause on the nascent industry, warning of a “loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning that would be irreversible on multi-generational timescales” and “uncertain impacts on carbon sequestration dynamics and deep-ocean carbon storage.” Earlier this year the influential IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille also passed a resolution with overwhelming support for a moratorium on deep-sea mining.
Farah Obaidullah continues, “As we look beyond COP26 and ramp up our efforts to tackle the climate crisis, we need to recognize the deep sea and the critical role this environment plays in locking away carbon. We cannot afford to open up a new frontier of industrial resource extraction in an environment that stands between us and the worst impacts of climate breakdown.”
The International Seabed Authority (ISA)
The ISA is the agency responsible for regulating any mining activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction and charged with protecting the deep seabed for the benefit of all humankind. The ISA will be meeting in a hybrid format, both virtually and in Kingston, Jamaica from 6-10 and 13-15 December 2021. Both Member States and official Observers of the ISA have expressed concern about the rush to meet in person during a global pandemic when many delegates cannot travel.
In 2021, a critical push towards opening the deep sea to industrial-scale mining was “triggered” by the Pacific island State of Nauru on behalf of a company it sponsors – The Metals Company (formerly known as Deep Green), headquartered in Canada. In June, Nauru invoked an arcane provision of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) called the ‘two-year rule’. This rule pressures the ISA to either adopt mining regulations by July 2023 so that The Metals Company can apply for a contract to mine or if the regulations have not been adopted by then, for the ISA to give the company a contract to mine under ‘provisional’ regulations.
The rush to meet this month has sparked concerns across governments and civil society that this meeting will be used to rush the adoption of regulations that will allow mining to start without adequate scrutiny or consultation. Given the current structure and decision-making procedures of the ISA, once a single contract for exploitation was granted, the floodgates for commercial mining of the deep sea will be open.
#DeepWeek- a week dedicated to the earth’s largest habitat, the deep sea, will be held from the 29th November to 5th December. Groups from across the world will be celebrating the critical role the deep ocean plays in keeping the planet functioning, exploring the threats it faces and the action happening to protect it. On the 30th of November for #DeepWeek, the DSCC premiered a new film, In Too Deep, exploring the threat of deep-sea mining.
Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is made up of more than 90 non-government organizations, fishers’ organizations, and law and policy institutes working together to protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. Our main focus is on ensuring the sustainability of deep-sea fisheries and addressing the potential threat of deep-sea mining.
WWF is an independent conservation organization active in nearly 100 countries, working to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife.