Pacific seabed mining delayed as international agency finalizes rules

Pacific seabed mining delayed as international agency finalizes rules

The start of industrial-scale marine mining to extract car battery metals from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has been delayed after the international agency overseeing the work concluded late last week that more time was needed to finalize mining regulations.

action by international seabed authorityThat came after pressure from environmentalists and countries opposing the effort set a July target for finalizing marine mining rules.

The most direct effect of the decision will be metal company, A Canadian-based mining start-up that has teamed up with the tiny island nation of Nauru to secure the first license to begin mining on an industrial scale, perhaps by next year – a timeline that will now be delayed.

It is unknown how long the delay could be. There has been maneuvering by marine mining opponents, who want to stop mining altogether, as well as by proponents, who want to figure out how to restart it around 2025.

The effort to postpone the start has been led by countries including Costa Rica, Chile and France. The three countries urged other countries, which are members of the Seabed Authority’s Governing Council, to agree that no permits authorizing mining in international waters should be granted until the rules are finalised. The body agreed that this is now unlikely to happen until 2025.

“We are at the edge of the ocean,” said Gina Guillén Grillo, Costa Rica’s representative to the Seabed Authority, who has helped lead the opposition to ocean mining. “We know there is not enough science. Starting now would be a disaster.”

Gerard Barron, chief executive of the metals company, said he is optimistic that his company and its partner Nauru will obtain the necessary approvals to begin the effort within the next several years.

While the Seabed Authority continues its work to set environmental standards, as well as royalty rates to be paid by mining contractors, among other matters, the metals company will continue to lobby other countries, Mr Barron said. The company will aim to convince them that seabed mining is better for the environment than surface mining in places like Indonesia or the Congo, where battery metals such as nickel, cobalt and copper are now being produced.

“Hopefully, we can keep the timetable on track,” Mr Barron said.

The metals company and Nauru, along with a delegation from China, which is aggressively pursuing marine mining, tried unsuccessfully at last week’s meeting to set a target for the Seabed Authority to finalize rules by 2024.

Mr Barron said investors in the metals company – which include Allseas GroupA Swiss-based company specializing in offshore oil pipeline operations, which has been looking for a way to transform operations that could support the electric vehicle industry – has committed to the project.

As it stands now, the Seabed Authority, which is based in Jamaica, has Issued 31 contracts for exploratory work in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. These agreements allow sponsor countries and their contractors to collect small amounts of oceanic rocks or cobalt-rich crust while gathering data on the environmental impact of the process, such as the sediment piles that could pose a threat to other aquatic life when the rocks are lifted.

the area of ​​deepest focus is Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a remote area between Mexico and Hawaii where ocean floor rocks have the highest concentration of metals. The rocks are 2.5 miles below, so deep that they require remotely operated machines to haul them up to the ships.

This is the area where the metals company wants to start its mining operations, he assured that Could generate $30 billion in after-tax net cash flow Over the life of the initial project of 25 years. If successful, the tiny company that has never turned a profit would become one of the largest global suppliers of key metals needed for electric vehicle batteries.

The biggest question now is when will Nauru submit an application to start mining on an industrial scale. It can do so before the rules are finalised, knowing that it will take at least a year for the application to be reviewed and then processed by the Seabed Authority.

If Nauru and the Metals Company have to wait until the rules are finalised, seabed mining will not start until 2026 amid continued protests.

Environmentalists working with countries such as Costa Rica and France to challenge sea-floor mining have said the delay will give them more time to enlist additional countries who want to see a long-term pause or even a halt to the practice. about two dozen nations There is now some form of support for the hold compared to a handful a year ago.

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