IUCN Congress votes in support of Motion 69 for a moratorium on deep sea mining. SUPPLIED/21091052
The International Union for Conservation of Nature congress have voted in overwhelming support of a moratorium on deep sea mining, with support from 93 per cent of governments and NGOs part of the international group. This sends a very strong message to world leaders of the global concern around the potential environmental impacts of deep sea mining, writes Te Ipukarea Society.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is
the world’s largest conservation organisation. The IUCN’s strength and mandate
come from its diverse and powerful membership, consisting of more than 1400
member organisations consisting of country (State) members, government
department members, and non government organisation (NGO) members. Te Ipukarea Society a full member of the
Every four years IUCN convenes the World Conservation
Congress (WCC). This year it is being
held in Marseilles, France. Included in
the programme of the Congress is a vote on motions related to conservation
issues from around the globe. Once adopted, these motions become part of IUCN
This year, one of the motions called for a moratorium on
deep sea mining. This was adopted with overwhelming support at the members
assembly this week. Eighty-one governments and government agencies voted in
favour of the moratorium, while 18 voted against and 28 abstained. Five hundred
and seventy-seven (577) NGOs and civil society organisations also voted in
favour, with 32 against and 35 abstained.
This critical vote will inform the IUCN policy in its
support of a pause on deep sea mining activities. These activities include the
adoption of any regulations for exploitation (mining) and the approval of new
exploitation and new exploration licences.
A moratorium is not a ban. It accepts that further scientific
and technical research can be undertaken. This vote for a moratorium
acknowledges the message that scientists have been giving, that deep-sea mining
has the potential to cause large-scale, irreversible biodiversity loss and
A moratorium is also a response to the intense pressure that
exists to pursue deep sea mining.
In June this year, Nauru triggered a so-called ‘Two-Year
rule’ at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) which it expects will result
in the ISA issuing a commercial licence to mine. Climate change is threatening
the futures of small island states such as Nauru’s and ours, creating pressure
to find income to be self-reliant and fund adaptation measures. There is also
the argument that these deep sea metals are needed for the future of green
Unfortunately the pressure of moving to mine in two years
falls on the scientists, who are telling us that they do not have enough
rigourous scientific evidence yet to support deep sea mining. The pressure also
falls on the regulators who are racing the clock to get adequate provisions in
place to manage this industry so that it does not have significant negative
impacts on our environment.
A moratorium or a pause, helps alleviate this pressure and
give everyone more time to fully understand and minimise the environmental,
social, cultural and economic risks of deep sea mining so we can make informed
This vote by the IUCN congress is a good thing for the Cook
Islands. If we agree to a pause, we too can ensure the effective protection of
our marine environment with the backing of strong scientific evidence, and use
this time to build our own local capacity in deep sea science and technology.
We are hopeful that the Cook Islands Government might carry
this message of caution and the need for more time, to the next meeting of the
ISA where they can oppose any moves to start mining in two years.
Cook Islands News reached out to the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority for comment on the latest motion calling for a ban on deep-sea mining. The newspaper did not receive a response by the time of publication.