Germany calls for a “precautionary pause” before the start of the deep-sea mining industry | deep sea mining

Germany has called for a pause in its controversial deep-sea mining industry, saying little is known about the potential impacts of mining for minerals on the ocean floor.

While other countries, including Spain and New Zealand, have previously called for a temporary halt to any exploitation of deep-sea minerals, Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is the most significant country to express its opposition to date. The country owns two of the 22 seabed exploration licenses.

Scientists have warned that damage to ecosystems from mining nickel, cobalt and other minerals on the sea floor would be “dangerous,” “reckless” and “irreversible.”

Germany’s call for a “pause” in the nascent industry, which has yet to start mining for commercial purposes, follows demands from Spain and New Zealand to halt any exploitation of seabed minerals until more research is done on the environmental impact, and until regulations with strict environmental standards are in place. .

Emmanuel Macron talks into a microphone as a shark slides into the aquarium behind him
French President Emmanuel Macron at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June, when he called for laws to stop deep-sea mining. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty

In June, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called for laws to stop deep-sea mining, but he did not call for a halt.

Among the companies that have announced that they will not buy minerals extracted from the seabed are German carmakers BMW and Volkswagen.

In a statement by the International Seabed Authority, the United Nations agency responsible for regulating deep-sea mining, meeting at its headquarters in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, the German representative said: “The German government here wants to confirm its view that the current knowledge and available science is insufficient to agree on Deep seabed mining until further notice.”

The country’s environment minister, Steffi Lemke, said: “Deep sea mining will put more pressure on the oceans and irreparably destroy ecosystems. For this reason, as a first step, we are calling for a pause to prevent any reckless decisions at the expense of the marine environment.”

Together with our international partners, we now have the opportunity to avoid another looming environmental crisis and prioritize conservation and exploration of nature. Only a healthy ocean will help us fight biodiversity and the climate crisis.”

Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep Sea Conservation Alliance, which is monitoring negotiations on mining regulations in Jamaica this week, called the German statement “important” because it indicates opposition to any exploitation of the deep sea before adequate environmental regulations are in place.

He said it could change the dynamics of the Kingston meeting. “They are sending a political signal of their opposition to any country that applies to my country under a law for two years before the regulations are adopted,” Gianni said.

The “two-year rule” is a legal provision that actually gives the UN Security Council two years to finalize the rulebook governing deep sea mining once a country announces its intention to start seabed mining. Activated in July 2021 by the Pacific island nation of Nauru, the rule means that exploitation of the sea floor can begin by July 2023 even if environmental or economic regulations are not agreed.

Thiel Seidensticker, a naval expert with Germany’s Greenpeace, described the German statement as a “good first step” towards effective protection of the deep sea.

“It is good news that the German government is advocating adherence to the precautionary principle in the deep sea, and is joining countries like Spain and New Zealand in doing so,” he said.

“The pause needed now is a good first step towards effective protection of the seas.”

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