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RMF urges ban on deep-sea mining until effects better understood

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RMF urges ban on deep-sea mining until effects better understood

Highlights

World in race for new resources to fuel energy transition

"Devastating" effects likely: non-profit group

"Precaution, precaution, precaution", says World Bank

London — A moratorium on deep sea mining should be enforced until the process is fully researched and understood, the Responsible Mining Foundation said Nov. 10.

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As the world gears up for the energy transition, it is no secret that more and more minerals will be needed to fuel a sustainable future. An idea is to dig up the sea bed and extract raw materials that way, with one argument that any carbon emissions will be absorbed by the water.

During an RMF webinar hosted Nov. 11, CEO Hélène de Villiers-Piaget said that until the full ramifications of deep-sea mining are understood a "moratorium" should be enacted.

Villiers-Piaget said she was "disappointed" that more senior voices in the industry didn't share that view, noting that the industry needs to be "really careful" when mining the ocean floor.

John Howchin, secretary-general, council on ethics of the Swedish national pension funds, said he was "neutral" on deep-sea mining, noting that "it's coming whether we want it or not."

Earlier this year Daniele La Porta, senior mining specialist at the World Bank, said that the world doesn't yet know enough about the impacts of deep-sea mining.

She suggested that what is needed is "precaution, precaution, precaution" before jumping in with both feet.

Important conversation required

"[The] deep-sea mining conversation [is] very important, we feel that [at] this point in time we don't know enough," she told the audience of a panel discussion. "More research [is required on the] impact on ecosystems. [The industry] needs more research before we can move ahead."

Timer Manurung, director of Indonesian non-profit Auriga, focused on environmental protection, said that in parts of Indonesia local people are already feeling the impact of deep-sea mining, such as fishing communities who are losing catch.

He said that without doubt the future of mining in Indonesia is deep sea, but that the government was being a little hasty in its approach and rather than laying down benchmarks for best practice, instead will be doing remedial work in the future.

He said that in the future deep sea mining "[will] come with devastating effects. Not only on local communities but also global climate change."