Greenpeace kayaktivists hold up a sign reading "stop deep-sea mining" near an exploration ship

Greenpeace kayaktivists hold up a sign reading "stop deep-sea mining" during a November 2023 protest near a Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. exploration ship in the Pacific Ocean.

(Photo: Martin Katz/Greenpeace/X)

Greenpeace Says Ban Deep-Sea Mining, Not Our Right to Protest Against It

"How can Greenpeace's activists paddling on kayaks be a threat to the environment, but the plundering of the oceans be a solution to the climate catastrophe?"

As the International Seabed Authority kicked off its annual summit in Jamaica on Monday to discuss rules for extracting minerals from the ocean floor, Greenpeace—which could be expelled from the United Nations body over a demonstration targeting a mining company—is urging the ISA to "stop deep-sea mining, not protests."

Representatives of 167 nations are gathering in Kingston to draft the regulatory framework for deep-sea mining, which ISA member states agreed to work out by July 2025. Although there are no current commercial deep seabed mining operations, the ISA has issued exploration licenses to state-owned companies and agencies in China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, and to private corporations including U.K. Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of U.S. military-industrial complex giant Lockheed Martin.

The Metals Company, a Canadian startup looking to make a big splash in deep-sea mining, has been targeted by Greenpeace "kayaktivists," who last November boarded a ship belonging to subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. in the Pacific Ocean and occupied the vessel's stern crane to draw attention to the potential harm that mineral extraction would cause to one of the world's last untouched ecosystems.

That peaceful protest could cost Greenpeace its ISA observer status, as members will consider whether to punish the environmental group during this week's conference. ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge claimed that Greenpeace's kayak protest posed a "serious threat" to company personnel and "the marine environment."

However, last November a Dutch court rejected The Metals Company's request for an injunction against the protesters, finding it "understandable" that Greenpeace took direct action in the face of "possibly very serious consequences" of the company's mining plans.

Greenpeace plans to hold a side event at the ISA conference on Monday focusing on the right to protest.

"If Michael Lodge had put as much effort into properly scrutinizing deep-sea mining companies and ensuring transparent negotiations as he has chasing dissent, a pristine ecosystem would have a fair chance to remain undisturbed," said Greenpeace International Deep-Sea Mining campaign lead Louisa Casson. "How can Greenpeace's activists paddling on kayaks be a threat to the environment, but the plundering of the oceans be a solution to the climate catastrophe?"

This year's ISA conference comes as two dozen nations are calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining and campaigners are urging the United States to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the ISA was established.

"Over the past year, it's been outstanding to see the growing call for a moratorium from countries in the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America," said Casson. "Responsible nations at the ISA are listening to the mounting science that shows deep-sea mining would cause irreversible damage to the oceans... The momentum is on the side of a moratorium."

There is also pushback. Last week, more than 350 former military and political leaders in the United States including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published a letter urging the U.S. Senate to sign and ratify the Law of the Sea in a bid to boost deep-sea mining amid rising international competition for minerals.

"Almost everyone agrees that the United States should ratify the Law of the Sea—it's a no-brainer and has been since the treaty was adopted over 40 years ago. This might be the only thing that Greenpeace and Big Oil agree with each other on," said Arlo Hemphill, who heads the Oceans Are Life campaign at Greenpeace USA.

"Now, deep-sea mining corporation The Metals Company has jumped on the bandwagon, hoping it will increase their chances of making it big after several costly failed ventures," Hemphill added. "With two dozen countries already on the record opposing the launch of deep-sea mining any time soon, there is little possibility it will be permitted."

However, earlier this year Norway became the first country to green-light deep-sea mining, a decision one environmental campaigner warned will have "severe impacts on ocean wildlife."

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