Pioneering Spirit (for illustration purposes); Source: Allseas

Activists’ game plan for deep sea mining ban turns up the heat on Allseas to cease its pursuits

Switzerland-headquartered Allseas, an offshore pipeline installation, heavy lift, and subsea construction player, has been urged to abandon further technological development of giant mining machines due to the allegedly harmful consequences their use will have. As the momentum behind the calls for a ban on deep sea mining builds, the Dutch government is being asked to back the moratorium campaign.

Pioneering Spirit (for illustration purposes); Source: Allseas

As part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the damage deep sea mining undertakings can bring, eight activists from Greenpeace Netherlands changed the meter-high Allseas logo on the roof of the office to ‘Killseas‘ last week and hung a banner saying ‘Stop Deep Sea Mining: Protect the Wonders of the Deep Sea.’

The Swiss player is perceived to be the driving force behind deep-sea mining, building a vessel, which is believed to be the only deep-sea mining ship in the world. The firm is also working on the further technological development of big mining machines, as it is convinced that the energy transition puzzle requires pieces of metals and minerals, such as manganese, cobalt, nickel, and copper, to pick up the pace.

Given Allseas’ stand on deep sea mining, Greenpeace wants the company to immediately halt its activities in this arena, as it believes that such operations present a threat to one of the last untouched ecosystems in the world due to huge machines extracting metals and minerals from the bottom of the sea.

While highlighting that deep sea mining destroys the habitat of species on the ground, with dust, light, and noise disrupting a fragile ecosystem, the environmental group encouraged the Dutch government to join the growing group of countries advocating a moratorium on such activities with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN body in charge of making decisions on deep sea mining in international waters.

Since scientists have warned that this mining form is causing serious and irreversible damage to life in the deep sea, Isabel Willemsen of Greenpeace Netherlands underlined: “It is not without reason that deep-sea mining is currently not permitted in international waters. The deep sea is very vulnerable and we hardly know what lives there.

“Recently, 5,000 new species were discovered in the area where Allseas wants to start mining. But the good news is: we can stop this industry before it starts. And ensure that this last piece of untouched wild nature is protected.”

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While Pieter Heerema, Allseas’ President, and many players in this line of work argue that deep sea mining is necessary for electric car batteries, some research papers still note that developments in battery technology and recycling are happening so quickly that metals and minerals from the deep sea are not needed for the energy transition. 

Several major car and tech companies, including Volvo, BMW and Volkswagen and Google and Philips, have already indicated that they do not want minerals from the deep sea. A large number of financial institutions also indicate that they do not want anything to do with deep-sea mining. Nevertheless, Allseas continues to develop machines and technology to carry out this destructive industry on a massive scale,”  added Willemsen.  

Even though there is currently no permission from the ISA to mine in international deep sea areas, Greenpeace fears that this could soon change unless a majority of member states vote in favor of a moratorium, which would prevent deep sea mining from taking place in international waters as long as the consequences are not sufficiently known.

Currently, 26 out of 167 member states have already placed themselves firmly in a camp supporting a moratorium, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, with the European Parliament also recently speaking in favor of a moratorium. A recent poll spotlights that 61% of Dutch people do not want to allow deep sea mining now, 26% want to allow mining if the damage is limited, 12% have no opinion, and only 1% always want to allow mining without reservations.

Willemsen explained: “We want the Netherlands to join the growing group of countries calling for a moratorium. The previous government indicated that it would apply a ‘precautionary principle’, but did not translate this into a concrete position at the ISA. Recent research by IPSOS I&O shows that a majority of Dutch people are in favor of a moratorium. It is now up to the government to put words into words.

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Moreover, the research shows that six in ten Dutch people are against deep-sea mining and support a temporary ban on this new industry at a time when scientists warn that very little is known about life in the deep sea and that deep-sea mining disrupts the biodiversity on the seabed, thus, it could have far-reaching harmful consequences.

Based on the research findings, only 11% of respondents in the representative sample knew exactly what deep sea mining entails. Following a brief description of the possible advantages and disadvantages, 58% of respondents indicated opposition to deep sea mining, while only 14% supported it. With ecological impacts at the forefront, at least 76% find the argument that deep-sea mining disrupts the environment of deep sea animal species very convincing. 

Meike Rijksen, Campaign Leader at Greenpeace, underscored: “Deep sea mining is devastating for life in the deep sea. This research shows that the Dutch want the deep sea and everything that lives there to be protected against the grabbers of deep-sea mining companies.

“The deep sea is the last virtually untouched ecosystem on Earth. We should leave that alone. Deep-sea mining is incompatible with the ambition to protect our oceans. We call on the Dutch government to speak out in favor of a provisional ban with the International Seabed Authority.”