deep sea mining protest
Pacific women protesting in the streets at the International Rio+20 Conference in Brazil actively promoting the ‘No Experimental Seabed Mining’ message. Source:
by Helen Rosenbaum and Natalie Lowrey
Deep Sea Mining Frenzy
A frenzy of sea bed exploration has hit the South Pacific and is now spreading to other parts of the globe.   Approximately 1.5 million square kilometres of South Pacific Ocean Floor is currently under exploration leasehold to private and national government companies within both territorial and international waters.  Canadian company Nautilus Minerals Inc (Nautilus) has been granted a 20 year licence to operate a deep sea mine focusing on hydrothermal vents in the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  Meanwhile, US based military contractor Lockheed Martin is negotiating licenses for the exploration of poly-metallic manganese nodules with the Fiji administration.  The company’s UK subsidiary UK Seabed Resources has its eyes on similar nodules in international waters spanning 58,000 km2 between Hawaii and Mexico. [1]    According to the GEOMAR centre for ocean research in Germany, the ecological impact of mining nodules would be “totally unacceptable with current technology” [2]
All of this activity is occurring in the absence of regulatory regimes or conservation areas to protect the unique and little known ecosystems of the deep sea. It is also occurring without meaningful participation by the communities who will be affected by DSM in decision-making.  Furthermore, the limited scientific research conducted to date provides no assurance that the health of coastal communities and the fisheries on which they depend can be guaranteed.
Very little is understood about the possible impacts of individual deep sea mines let alone the cumulative impacts of the many mines likely to be developed. We also barely understand deep sea ecosystems although they occupy more than 90% of ocean space.[3]
The direct physical destruction caused by each mining operation would obliterate ecosystems – with the very real possibility that species will become extinct before they have even been identified. While, this alone is sufficient reason to not approve DSM projects, there are additional serious risks such as the toxicity of metals that may find their way into marine food chains.
Studies and modelling are required to determine what metals will be released, what chemical forms they will be present in, the extent to which they will find their way into food chains, how contaminated the seafood eaten by local communities will be, and what effects these metals will have on fisheries of local, national and regional importance.
Until then a precautionary approach should be applied with a moratorium placed on the exploration and mining of deep sea minerals.
Community voices against deep sea mining
The call to stop experimental sea bed mining in the Pacific is growing. Civil society in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific is speaking out against this frontier industry.[4] This has included the presentation of a petition with over 24,000 signatures to the PNG government calling for Pacific governments to stop experimental seabed mining.[5]
Never before in PNG’s history has a development proposal galvanised such wide-ranging opposition – from representatives of local communities, students, church leaders, non-government organisations, academics, staff of government departments and national and provincial parliamentarians.
Foremost in people’s minds is the fear that PNG is being used as a laboratory for the experiment of sea bed mining and that insufficient research has been conducted on deep sea ecosystems and the impacts of sea bed mining on marine species and coastal communities. Already, the people of New Ireland Province have witnessed cloudy water, dead tuna, and the lack of response of sharks to the age-old tradition of shark calling. They attribute these changes to Nautilus’ activities in the lead up to commercial mining.
According to Oigen Schulze, Director of Zero Inc, a community organisation in New Ireland Province, “Local communities have not sanctioned the Solwara 1 project. No one knows what the impacts of this form of mining will be. Communities want to know what concrete steps our Prime Minister will now take to ensure we are not being used us as guinea pigs in a sea bed mining experiment.”
At the international Rio+20 conference in Brazil in 2012, Pacific women promoted the ‘stop experimental seabed mining’ message.[6] While in New Zealand communities have come together to campaign against the mining of their black sands and their deep seas.[7]  In March 2013, the Pacific Conference of Churches 10th General Assembly passed a resolution to stop all forms of experimental seabed mining in the Pacific.[8]
UK Links And the UK connection?  UK Seabed Resources is exploring for manganese nodules, while Neptune Minerals plc (a UK-based subsidiary of US-based Neptune Minerals Inc) and Nautilus Minerals (a US-based company in which British multinational mining multinational Anglo American is a major shareholder) are chasing seafloor massive sulphides.
Furthermore a high profile DSM Industry summit will be held in London on 31 July – 1 August 2013, London, UK (
The summit provides an opportunity for UK based organisations to support the concerns and work of communities elsewhere.  We have a window of opportunity now to stop the spectre of DSM from becoming reality.
The DSM Campaign
The Deep Sea Mining Campaign is an association of organisations and citizens from Papua New Guinea, Australia and Canada concerned about the likely impacts of DSM on marine and coastal ecosystems and communities. The aims of the campaign are to achieve Free, Prior and Informed Consent from affected communities and the application of the precautionary principle.
Put simply we believe that: · Affected communities should participate in decisions about deep sea mining and indeed have the right to veto proposed mines, and that · Deep Sea mining should be permitted only after independently verified research has demonstrated that neither communities nor ecosystems will suffer long term negative impacts.
To Join Forces With Us: Join the Deep Sea Mining campaign e-list by sending an email to: Please let us know if you or your organisation would like to collaborate with us.
For More Information: Our web site: Campaign Reports:    Facebook: Twitter: Youtube:
[1] ).  [2] ( [3]  [4]  [5]   [6] Pacific NGOs step up Oceans Campaign at Rio+20, Island Business, June 15 2012,     [7]; [8] ‘Call for impact research’, Dawn Gibson, 11 March 2013, Fiji Times Online,
Dr Helen Rosenbaum is the coordinator of the Deep Sea Mining campaign and Natalie Lowrey is the campaign’s communications coordinator. The Deep Sea Mining Campaign is a project of The Ocean Foundation
See also:
Deep Sea Mining Campaign newsletter at
All at sea: the challenges of regulating the seabed mining industry