Greens demand answers as Crown agency backs deep sea mining

Banning deep-sea mining is more urgent than ever following the news that a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, NIWA  is set to support what could easily become a damaging mining project in the Pacific Ocean.

“Once again, we call on the Government to do the right thing and back an immediate moratorium on deep sea mining,” says Teanau Tuiono, spokesperson for Pacific Peoples.

With the support of NIWA, Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is leading a project in the Pacific to assist The Metals Company (TMC) to develop an environmental management plan for its deep sea mining project, which is backed by the Government of Nauru.

“News of NIWA involvement in this project flies in the face of New Zealand and the Pacific’s interests.

“Advice provided by MFAT to Ministers in 2021 suggested that “our approach to deep sea mining must recognise the mana of each Pacific Island country.” 

“The Government cannot credibly claim to be supporting Pacific interests when it refuses to join the call for a moratorium on deep sea mining, while at the same time a Crown agency advances work that supports deep sea miners,” says Teanau Tuiono. 

Green Party oceans and fisheries spokesperson, Eugenie Sage added: 

“The Government’s position on deep sea mining is becoming increasingly untenable. Ministers have repeatedly said they will not support a moratorium on the basis that the Government wants to negotiate environmental standards for mining.

“But even before robust standards can be developed and before any such standards are agreed, a Government owned Crown Research Institute appears willing to ease the path for a large company to move in and start taking what they want from the ocean.

“Ministers Woods and Mahuta need to explain how NIWA providing support to a company with an interest in mining under international waters aligns with our environmental protection values and commitment to upholding Pacific mana.

“The Government of Nauru recently triggered a fast-track process that could see mining begin as early as July 2023. It requested that mining regulations be finalised in order to “facilitate the approval of plans of work for exploitation” by TMC.

“The Government has justified its refusal to support a moratorium on deep sea mining on the basis that it is involved in these negotiations, which it claims will allow for high environmental standards.

“Recently published research suggests that we may not even have the knowledge to assess whether environmental standards will be strong enough to protect the deep-sea environment. 

“Mining would be enormously damaging, so it is astonishing that a Crown agency is able to get involved with a potentially destructive project before there are any standards in place.

“Providing scientific support to companies in their attempts to mine the international seabed – the common heritage of humankind, according to the UN – flies in the face of New Zealand’s long-standing commitment to ocean protection on the international stage. 

“The Government must stand on the right side of history and urgently support a moratorium on deep sea mining in international waters,” says Eugenie Sage.

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