Greenpeace condemns NZ silence on Pacific deep sea mining risks

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A Greenpeace protest against deep seabed mining
A Greenpeace protest against deep seabed mining ... Palau, Fiji and Samoa were joined this week by Tuvalu, Tonga, and Guam in forming an alliance opposing the destructive practice. Image: Marten van Dijl/Greenpeace

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Greenpeace Aotearoa has condemned New Zealand for “standing by” while “deep wounds are inflicted on its Pacific neighbours” by silence over deep sea mining.

Greenpeace’s seabed mining campaigner James Hita made the critical statement today after a dramatic shift at the UN Oceans conference in Lisbon this week when several Pacific governments formed an alliance to oppose deep sea mining in international waters.

The environmental movement said the continued silence from the New Zealand government on the issue was “deafening”.

To standing ovations, Fiji and Samoa joined the alliance opposing deep sea mining announced by Palau on Monday.

The following day Tuvalu, Tonga, and Guam announced their support for a halt to deep sea mining and France is now also calling for a legal and robust framework to ban deep sea mining in the high seas.

But so far the New Zealand government has not taken a stance on the issue.

“New Zealand risks standing by while deep wounds are inflicted on its Pacific neighbours if it continues to stay silent on deep sea mining,” James Hita said.

‘Ruthless corporations’
“This move by ruthless corporations to begin deep sea mining in the Pacific is the latest example of colonisation in a region that has already suffered so much from nuclear testing, overfishing and resource extraction by the developed world.

“It’s a sad irony that when French nuclear testing threatened the Pacific, Norman Kirk’s Labour government sent a frigate in protest, but now, when corporate seabed mining threatens the Pacific, Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government does nothing while Macron’s French government speaks out to protect the Pacific.

“New Zealand has a golden opportunity right now to show real solidarity and leadership in the Pacific and we call on Prime Minister Ardern, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta and Minister of Oceans and Fisheries David Parker to seize the day and make us proud.

“To maintain respect in the Pacific, the Ardern government needs to start standing up for the things that matter to the Pacific.

“Palau, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa are all calling for a moratorium on seabed mining but so far the New Zealand government is sitting on its hands,” said Hita.

Deep sea mining is a destructive and untested industry where minerals are sucked up from the ocean floor and waste materials pumped back into the ocean.

A sediment plume smothers marine life, threatening vulnerable ecosystems, fisheries and the people’s way of life.

Ocean floor disruptions
Scientists say that disruptions to the ocean floor may also reduce the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon, adding to the climate crisis.

Without action from governments to stop it, mining of the deep seas in the Pacific could begin as early as mid-2023.

  • Greenpeace Aotearoa launched a petition in June calling on the NZ government and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta to support a ban on deep sea mining in the Pacific and around the world. More than 9000 people have signed.
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