French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a legal framework to prevent deep sea mining. He calls on countries to invest their money in science to better understand and protect the world’s oceans.
International interest in deep sea mining is growing, but environmental groups and many governments are calling for a ban, or at least strict regulation.
Deep-sea mining uses heavy machinery to suck up potato-sized rocks containing cobalt, manganese, and other rare minerals from the ocean floor. These raw materials are usually processed into batteries.
We need to understand the seas better in order to protect them.
“We need to create a legal framework to stop deep-sea mining and not allow new activities that endanger these ecosystems,” Macron said at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon. But at the same time, we need to encourage our scientists and explorers to get to know the seas better. We need to understand it better in order to protect it.”
France itself, through the French Institute for Naval Exploration, has an exploration nodes of 75,000 square kilometers in the Clarion-Clipperton region in the North Pacific, which is rich in polymetallic nodules. The contract is valid until June 2026.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations body, works on regulations for mining in international waters. Until there are global rules, no sea floor mining is allowed.
Have we not learned our lesson? We don’t know what we’re going to release by going hundreds, thousands of feet to the ocean floor.
Pros and Cons
Several countries, such as Chile and the Pacific islands of Palau and Fiji, are calling for a global moratorium on all deep-sea mining. They point to environmental concerns and a lack of sufficient scientific information.
Earlier this week, WWF Director Marco Lambertini described deep-sea mining as “scary” and called for very strict regulations. “Have we not learned our lesson?” he asked. , referring to the devastating impact of overland mining of minerals. “We just don’t know what we’re going to release by going hundreds, thousands of feet to the ocean floor.”
The WWF is convinced that there will be serious consequences if the green light is given to extracting minerals from the sea floor. Lambertini says that deep-sea mining can generate harmful sediment plumes and thus affect fish migration. He is calling on authorities to first consider the “significant recycling potential” of e-waste for materials needed for batteries.
However, not everyone is against deep sea mining. China is a leader in deep-sea mining, and the small island of Nauru last year asked international security law to speed up the adoption of deep-sea mining rules.
Last month, the G7 nations agreed that they would only allow such mining projects if the environment was not seriously affected. According to Peter Thompson, United Nations Special Envoy for Oceans, regulations will soon be introduced to address these concerns.
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