World - Global Leaders Must Act to Protect Ocean Life from Seabed Mining Impacts
Consistent, science-based regional plans are key to ensuring effective environmental protection
As some countries and companies continue to argue that the seafloor in international waters be opened to mining, there’s a clear need for consistent controls, including conservation measures, to ensure that activity does not go forward without safeguarding the marine environment. Such controls should be at the core of regional environmental management plans (REMPs). Done right, these plans, which must be adopted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA)—the organization that governs seabed mining activity in areas beyond national jurisdiction—will help to ensure that effective environmental protections are in place if commercial mining occurs.
Every region where exploration for minerals is underway or planned should be subject to a REMP, and each plan should include goals and measures to safeguard regional marine life and ecosystems from mining impacts, while balancing resource extraction with other maritime activities. Despite progress developing plans for certain regions, the ISA has not yet approved a standard process for their creation, leaving uncertainty over the roles that countries, scientists, and the ISA should play in REMP development.
At a minimum, the ISA should adopt a rule requiring that a REMP is in place before issuing a permit for mining in a given region. An even better system would be to adopt and continually update a REMP when proponents first begin searching for minerals in a region, far in advance of any proposals for full-scale mining.