The government of The Netherlands released their position on deep-sea mining just days before collapsing.
A letter with carefully chosen language was issued that sets a dangerous precedent for deep-sea mining and allows our government to change tack as necessary.
In summary, the Dutch government's position is that we shouldn't mine the deep sea unless it is scientifically proven that it can be done within marine ecological thresholds and on the condition that there are robust rules & regulations in place that can effectively be applied.
This sounds good on the face of it, but unlike other countries they will not use the words moratorium or precautionary pause. What they also say is that in order to regulate the industry The Netherlands must have a seat at the table. This means becoming prospective miners themselves by applying for an exploration licence. Again this sounds reasonable. But the truth is The Netherlands is quite happy to reap the economic benefits of mining. "If you can't beat them (and they are not even trying), join them".
It is no secret that Dutch marine engineering companies will benefit from whoever goes mining.
Recap on why we should not mine the deep sea.
- We don't need to. There are enough minerals on land to meet demand (we can improve practices, efficiency & set high standards (in terms of labour, waste streams, regeneration etc). We can recover metals from waste streams to increase supplies. Importantly battery tech is evolving with many big companies already using batteries that do not require metals from the deep (which is why tech & EV companies are saying no to DSM).
- DSM will happen in an area that cannot be effectively regulated (the High Seas, which is almost half our planet), where no country will be held accountable (we see this with the fishing industry), where auditing will be impossible (4-6 KM deep, in plumes of sediment).
- Areas cannot be restored on human time scales.
- We will lose biodiversity we haven't even discovered yet (we have already lost over 2/3 of global wildlife).
- Ploughing the seafloor will release CO2 back into the water column (we can't afford this).
- Wildlife, including valuable commercial fisheries will be impacted (which is why fisheries associations including from the EU reject deep-sea mining.
- We just don't know what the effects will be on ocean systems. But we know that deep-sea mining is an experiment we cannot afford and cannot reverse. (which is why over 700 scientists have lodged their concerns).
- Once one country begins to mine, the flood gates open for all to mine. Again with no single country feeling the burden of responsibility because the High Seas belong to no one (but are essential to all of us).
With the collapse of the government we will keep a watchful eye at the upcoming assembly meeting of the International Seabed Authority (later this month) to ensure they don't make their already dubious position worse!
In Dutch we have a saying: 'met alle winden meewaaien'. A sailing metaphor to mean: we bend with the wind. The Netherlands can still change tack! We will keep pushing for the best outcome for the ocean and us.
Thank you for supporting our work. Without you we cannot hold our governments and leaders to account!
For the Ocean and Us,
ps. Keep sharing the petition. Our work is not over yet!