Interview with award winning Canadian filmmaker Julia Barnes

Interview with award winning Canadian filmmaker Julia Barnes

Just in time for Earth Week, WLRN’s April Neault interviewed Julia Barnes, producer of the new film Bright Green Lies, documenting the fundamental problems with ‘green’ energy.

Award winning Canadian filmmaker Julia Barnes sat down with WLRN member, April Neault, on April 16th to discuss her newest documentary entitled Bright Green Lies, based on the recently released book of the same name. Julia talks about how and why she started making documentaries, her passion for environmentalism and the overlaps between environmentalism and feminism. Check out Julia’s vimeo page for links to watch her award winning documentary Sea of Life, released 5 years ago.

https://vimeo.com/juliabarnes

Also, check out the Bright Green Lies webpage to purchase a ticket to the live streaming of her upcoming documentary: https://www.brightgreenlies.com/

Greenwashing the Blue Economy

Greenwashing the Blue Economy

Editor’s Note: After exploiting almost every land on Earth, the industrial economy has now moved on to exploit the sea. Exploiters do not view the sea as many of us do: a deep body of water that is home to unimaginably large number of creatures. They see the sea as they view any other place on Earth: a huge reservoir of resources that might profit them. These profits come in many forms: greater wealth, which in turn is control over even more resources, and an ability to surround oneself with and have power over more people to do their bidding. It is for this that they are destroying life on Earth.

But, of course, that is not something they could publicly acknowledge. They have to create a more “righteous” justification for their not-so-righteous action. This is why they, in a cruel twist of words, claim to exploit the sea to protect the environment. In the following piece, Julia Barnes explains how the blue economy is just another form of greenwashing. Julia Barnes is the director of the award-winning documentaries Sea of Life and Bright Green Lies. She is a co-founder of Deep Sea Defenders, a campaign dedicated to protecting the marine environment from seabed mining. deepseadefenders.org


The Blue Economy and Greenwashing

By Julia Barnes

The term “blue economy” was first introduced in 2012, at the United Nations climate change conference in Qatar, COP18.

It has become a buzzword used by ocean conservationists and industry alike. But what does this term actually mean? And more importantly, what are the implications for the ocean?

Definitions vary. For some, the term simply describes economic activities taking place at sea. However, most interpretations include language around sustainability, conservation, or better stewardship.

According to Google/Oxford Languages, the blue economy is defined as:

blue economy

noun

an economic system or sector that seeks to conserve marine and freshwater environments while using them in a sustainable way to develop economic growth and produce resources such as energy and food.

Embedded in this definition are the values and assumptions of the dominant culture: the idea that economic growth is desirable, that the ocean consists of resources to be exploited, and that these resources can be “developed” in a sustainable way.

Sustainable has become perhaps the most meaningless word in the English language. It has been pasted in front of nearly every destructive activity imaginable; used as a rhetorical shield to deflect criticism. We now have sustainable mining, sustainable forestry, sustainable fisheries, and sustainable energy. Yet, the real world effects of these activities remain the same: they are destroying the planet.

Some examples of sectors within the blue economy include: industrial fishing, aquaculture, shipping, coastal and marine tourism, energy (wind, waves, tidal, biofuel, offshore oil and gas), ocean-based carbon credits, mineral resources (deep sea mining, dredging, sand mining), and biotechnology (marine genetic resources, industrial enzymes) – all of which the ocean would be better off without.

The problem isn’t that these industries are being done in an unsustainable way and can somehow be tweaked to become sustainable; unsustainability is inherent to what they are, and to the economic model under which they operate – a model that demands infinite extractive growth despite the fact that our planet is finite and has already been largely denuded of life, a model that objectifies the ocean and values it only for the profit humans can extract from it.

The notion of a sustainable blue economy provides the illusion of protection. Meanwhile, industry and corporations are doubling down on their efforts to exploit the sea, extracting living organisms faster than the rate at which they can reproduce, destroying habitat, wiping out vulnerable species, and pushing new frontiers of extraction. Carbon capture schemes are popping up, abusing the sea in a shell game that legitimises continued emissions through supposed carbon “offsets”. Genetic prospecting threatens to privatize and commodify the very DNA of our nonhuman kin. Deep sea mining threatens to disrupt the ocean on a scale not previously seen. Offshore energy projects (for fossil fuels and so-called renewables) impose damage on the sea while providing power to the system that is at the root of the problem.

At a time when we should be pulling back, reducing our impact, and allowing the ocean to regenerate, the blue economy offers instead to continue business as usual, only rebranded.

As with so many of the things that have been marketed to us as “green”, the blue economy is primarily about sustaining a gluttonous way of life at the expense of life on the planet.

What if instead of defining the ocean as a resource, we valued it for what it really is? A living community vital to the functioning of our planet. The foundation of life on Earth. An entity with volition of its own. A force much older, larger, and wiser than we are. Something so powerful, beautiful, and magical, it cannot be described in words but can certainly be felt. Something sacred and deserving of respect.

The ocean is already collapsing under the many assaults of the global industrial economy. Further commodifying it under a vague claim of sustainability will not solve the problem.

What’s Wrong With the UN High Seas Treaty?

What’s Wrong With the UN High Seas Treaty?

Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, UN delegates reached an agreement on conservation of marine life on international waters. The agreement, reached after two decades of negotiations, claims it will protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans from biodiversity loss by 2030. It has been hailed as a “breakthrough” by Secretary-General António Guterres. Mainstream environmental organizations have followed suit. These two articles by DGR members question these claims. They explore what the treaty actually says. The article is followed by the invitation to a demonstration against Deep Sea Mining in London on May 3 and 4.


The UN High Seas Treaty

By Jolene

Scrolling through a bright green Facebook page a few weeks ago I saw this headline: “More Than 190 Countries Agree On A Treaty to Protect Marine Life.” Sounds good, but is it really? I wonder if anyone who saw that post actually read and researched the story before reacting to it with likes and hearts and enthusiastic comments.

The article said that The United Nations High Seas Treaty aims to protect 30% of the world’s ocean from biodiversity loss by 2030. My first thought was, why only 30%? My second thought was, There’s got to be something more to this treaty than is being told to us in the article. And there is.

First, let’s look at who is allowed to use ocean resources.

Although the ocean body of water can be used by anyone, the ocean seabed belongs to the coastal state, which is 12 nautical miles from the coast. A nautical mile is a little over a land mile. Each state also has an exclusive economic zone which is 200 nautical miles from its coast. A nation has the right to use the resources in this zone. Beyond the 200 nautical miles is considered international waters — the high seas — which can be used by anyone. The new treaty is supposed to regulate the use of international waters.

Right now, all nations are allowed to lay submarine cables and pipelines along the floor bed of the high seas. That seems destructive enough, but now the UN High Seas Treaty, that is supposed to protect marine life, is going to allow deep sea mining to be exempt from environmental impact assessment (EIA) measures.

Deep sea mining is one of the most destructive activities that can be done to the ocean sea bed. The push for this mining is being driven by an increase in demand for minerals to make so-called renewable energy. More and more of the earth’s land is being mined for these minerals, and the mining industry is now looking to the ocean to continue the destruction.

The land and sea should not be owned by anyone, but as we can see, the most powerful people in this industrial society are just taking what they want. Mining destroys land bases, and now deep sea mining is being added to the destruction of the planet. Whenever governments get together to do something “good,” be very skeptical. It’s usually being done for the good of companies, not the planet.


Ocean waves
Ocean Waves by Silas Baisch via Unsplash

What they aren’t telling you about the High Seas Treaty

By Julia Barnes

When the High Seas Treaty was announced, conservation groups applauded and social media was abuzz with celebration. The media portrayed it as a long-awaited victory. Commentators claimed that it meant 30% of the ocean would be protected by 2030, that deep sea mining would face strict regulations, and biodiversity would be safeguarded.

The draft text is easily accessible online. It’s a 54-page document, dry and tedious, but clear enough that any lay person should be able to comprehend its meaning.

That is why it is so unforgivable that the treaty has been misrepresented the way it has.

The High Seas Treaty does not guarantee that 30% of the ocean will be protected. It makes no commitment to a percentage, sets no targets. It merely lays out the regulatory framework under which it would be possible to create marine protected areas on the high seas.

When you think of a protected area, you’re likely imagining a place that is off limits to exploitation, where industrial activities are banned.

Under the High Seas Treaty, a protected area is one that is “managed” and “may allow, where appropriate, sustainable use provided it is consistent with the conservation objectives.”

I do not believe that humans possess the wisdom to manage the ocean, nor would we ever be capable of doing a better job than the ocean does itself, with its billions of years of intelligence.

Our track record with managing fisheries should cast serious doubts about our ability to assess sustainability. We must remember that there is no surplus in nature. When something is taken out, even at a rate that is “sustainable,” nutrients are permanently removed from the ecosystem. This cannot happen without consequences.

Even though “protected” might not mean what we expect it to, let’s assume for a moment that an area managed for “sustainable use” is in better shape than one left “unprotected.” Next, we run into the problem of enforcement.

Illegal fishing is rampant, with 40% of fishing boats in the world operating illegally. Marine protected areas are routine victims of poaching. Unless they deploy a navy to patrol the protected areas on the high seas, it is likely these will only be paper parks.

But all this presumes that marine protected areas will, in fact, be created. The process laid out in the treaty makes this quite difficult. With 193 signatory countries, decisions on the creation of marine protected areas are by consensus, and failing that, will require a two-thirds majority vote.

Proposals for new marine protected areas must undergo a review by a scientific and technical body, then consultation with “all relevant stakeholders,” after which the submitting party will be asked to revise the proposal.

Next, there is a 120-day review period. If another party objects to the establishment of a marine protected area within that time frame, the objecting party will be exempted from the marine protected area.

The review period also leaves time for industries to exploit the proposed area before protection is in place. We’ve seen this happen on land when logging companies targeted soon-to-be-protected forests, cutting as many trees as they could before the protection was granted. It’s not hard to imagine something similar taking place on the high seas, with a proposed area being fished intensively during the 120-day period.

What commentators often ignore is that a large portion of the treaty is dedicated to something called “marine genetic resources” and deals with how to share the “benefits” gained from commodifying the genetic material of marine organisms for use in things like pharmaceuticals.

Conservation groups have falsely claimed that the High Seas Treaty puts limits on deep sea mining, when in fact it does not. Deep sea mining is even exempted from environmental impact assessment measures.

The High Seas Treaty may have been a diplomatic feat, but as is often the case when negotiating with so many parties, to achieve agreement, the text ends up watered down and toothless.

This comes as no surprise. What is disheartening is seeing the way news media and NGOs consistently misrepresent the treaty. For a while, the internet exploded with erroneous claims that 30% protection had been achieved, that the ocean had scored a massive victory.

Meanwhile, the deep sea mining industry is gearing up to begin the largest and most destructive project ever imagined on the high seas, and few people have heard of it.

We have an illusion of protection masking a new era of exploitation.


Demonstration: Say No to Deep Sea Mining!

deep

The International Forum for Deep Sea Mining Professionals will be holding their 11th Annual Deep Sea Mining Summit 2023 in London on May 3rd and 4th.

They have been very secretive about the exact location. Which is understandable considering the destructive nature of this profession. But we have found out where it will be held and we need to have an opposition demonstration there. Everyone and anyone in and around London who is against mining the deep sea should come with signs and solidarity.  We have set a time and date to show up but feel free to come express your views anytime during the summit.  On May 4th at 1pm BST in front of the London Marriott Hotel Canary Wharf 22 Hertsmere Road defend the deep sea!

Species extinction is considered a “likely outcome” of deep sea mining. This new extractive industry threatens not only the fragile seabed, but all levels of the ocean. Mining would produce plumes of sediment wastewater that spread for 100s of kilometers, suffocating the fish who swim throught them.

We have an opportunity to stop this industry before it begins, but we are running out of time. As soon as this July, commercial mining may begin, opening an area of the ocean as wide as North America to exploitation.

We want to show that there is widespread support for a ban on deep sea mining.

We also want to highlight the incredible biodiversity that is threatened, so we are encouraging people to come dressed as their favorite ocean creatures. Don’t let them think your silence means consent.

The Facebook page for this event is here.

Sponsored by Deep Sea Defenders


Featured Image: Life in the ocean by SGR via Unsplash

[Event] Lierre Keith in London: What is to be Done and From Living Planet to Necrosphere

[Event] Lierre Keith in London: What is to be Done and From Living Planet to Necrosphere

Editor’s note: Lierre Keith, co founder of DGR, is going to be in London for two events. On April 1, she’s going to be a part of a Women’s Rights Conference along with a number of other feminists. On April 2, she is going to give a talk on Bright Green Lies, followed by a screening of the documentary and Q&A.


What is to be Done? Women’s Rights Conference

A hybrid conference (up to 150 of us in real life and lots more online) in London on Saturday 1st April 2023, 9am-5pm near Old St tube or Barbican tube. Women’s Declaration International invites you to a day of speeches, workshops, networking, internet livestream link to global sisters and hopefully fun. If you would like to attend, help plan, organize, volunteer on the day, run sessions, etc, please email info@womensdeclaration.com or fill in this form https://forms.gle/bFLntzbBzrm4zd6M8

We will livestream the whole thing, so you can participate online too.You can use the normal FQT attendee login so if you are registered for FQT you are registered and need to do nothing further. If not go to womensdeclaration.com and register for Feminist Question Time and you will get a Zoom link the week before.

With four rooms, a garden and a coffee area, the speakers/workshop leaders include: Sheila Jeffreys, Lierre Keith , Zuleyka Valentin Arroyo, Kaïla Atarou Manfah, Christina Ellingsen, Julia Long, Amparo Domingo, Kate Coleman, Stephanie Davies-Arai, Amber Alt, Paula Boulton, Maureen O’Hara, Marian Rutigliano, Lynne Harne, Emma Thomas, Sally Wainwright, Louise Somerville, Jan Williams, Kelly Frost, Kate Graham, Alison Jenner, Lynn Alderson, Shannon from HearSheHearShe, Jo Brew and many more!

The theme is What is to be done, so talks and workshops will focus on what we should do next.

After the day, we have booked a quiet room at a pub where we can sit and chat, plus go downstairs to buy food and drink.

In order for WDI to break even (& hopefully increase our war chest), we need all of us to support the event both financially (by buying tickets, and donating funds) and also through volunteer activities (in preparation, day of, and cleanup).

You can buy tickets for the in person event here. Register for the online event here.


From Living Planet to Necrosphere: In the Time of Patriarchy’s Endgame

Lierre Keith – writer, radical feminist, food activist, and environmentalist will be in London Sunday, April 2nd for this highly anticipated talk. This will be followed by a screening of Bright Green Lies and a Q and A with the people behind it.
More and more environmentalists are starting to question whether not just fossil fuels, but also so-called ‘green energy’, could pose a potentially serious threat to our environment and to what remains of our already threatened species and biodiversity.

With praise from world-renowned author and campaigner Vandana Shiva (anti-GMO activist and President of Navdanya International), Jeff Gibbs (director of Planet of the Humans, available to watch here for free) and Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of America: The Farewell Tour), Bright Green Lies and its accompanying documentary film dig further into this issue, exploring whether our dependence on fossil fuels can really be replaced with a new form of industry that calls itself green.

Join us for the event with our expert panel:

  • Lierre Keithwriter, radical feminist, and food activist
  • Julia BarnesBright Green Lies filmmaker and award-winning documentary maker
  • Derrick Jensen (author of the Bright Green Lies book, activist and named one of Utne Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”)

This illuminating film “dismantles the illusion of ‘green’ technology in breathtaking, comprehensive detail, revealing a fantasy that must perish if there is to be any hope of preserving what remains of life on Earth. From solar panels to wind turbines, from LED light bulbs to electric cars, no green fantasy escapes Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert’s revealing peek behind the green curtain. Bright Green Lies is a must-read for all who cherish life on Earth.”
—Jeff Gibbs, writer, director, and producer of the film Planet of the Humans

Copies of the film on DVD will be available for purchase, alongside copies of the book which Lierre may sign for you.

Note: This is an in-person event. Please register on this Eventbrite link.

Banner by File:Lierre Keith.png” by Deep Green Resistance is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Approval of Deep Sea Mining Test Despite Concerns

Approval of Deep Sea Mining Test Despite Concerns

Editor’s Note: Deep sea mining is being pursued on the pretext of a transition towards a “cleaner” source of energy. This transition is being hailed as “the solution” to all environmental problems by the majority of the environmental movement. The irony of “the solution” to environmental problems being destruction of natural communities seems to be lost on a lot of people.

The International Seabed Authority has been criticized for a lack of transparency and corporate capture by the companies it is supposed to regulate. Given that the organization is expected to be funded from mining royalties, it may not come as a surprise that it has prioritized the interests of corporations above the preservation of the deep sea. Despite numerous concerns raised about Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI)’s environmental impact statement, the ISA gave permission to NORI to begin exploratory mining. NORI’s vessel, The Hidden Gem, is currently extracting polymetallic nodules from the seafloor in the Clarion Clipperton Zone. This exploratory mining will cause tremendous harm itself, but it is also a big step towards opening the gates to large-scale commercial exploitation of the deep sea. To help stop this, get organized, become a Deep Sea Defender.


By Elizabeth Claire Alberts/Mongabay

  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the intergovernmental body responsible for overseeing deep sea mining operations and for protecting the ocean, recently granted approval for a mining trial to commence in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The company undertaking this trial is Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a subsidiary of Canadian-owned The Metals Company (TMC), which is aiming to start annually extracting 1.3 million metric tons of polymetallic nodules from the CCZ as early as 2024.
  • The approval for this mining test, the first of its kind since the 1970s, was first announced by TMC earlier this week.
  • Mining opponents said the ruling took them by surprise and they feared it would pave the way for exploitation to begin in the near future, despite growing concerns about the safety and necessity of deep sea mining.

On Sept. 14, the Hidden Gem — an industrial drill ship operated by a subsidiary of The Metals Company (TMC), a Canadian deep sea mining corporation — left its port in Manzanillo, Mexico. From there, it headed toward the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a vast abyssal plain in international waters of the Pacific Ocean that stretches over 4.5 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) across the deep sea, roughly equivalent in size to half of Canada.

The goal of TMC’s expedition is to test its mining equipment that will vacuum up polymetallic nodules, potato-shaped rocks formed over millions of years. The nodules contain commercially coveted minerals like cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese. TMC, a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq exchange, announced that it aims to collect 3,600 metric tons of these nodules during this test period.

This operation came as a surprise to opponents of deep-sea mining, mainly because of the stealth with which they said the International Seabed Authority (ISA) — the UN-affiliated intergovernmental body dually responsible for overseeing mining in international waters and for protecting the deep sea — authorized TMC to commence the trial.

It is the first such trial the ISA has authorized after years of debate over whether it should permit deep-sea mining to commence in international waters, and if so, under what conditions. News of the authorization did not come initially from the ISA, but from TMC itself in a press release dated September 7. The ISA eventually posted its own statement on Sept. 15, more than a week after TMC’s announcement. It is not clear when the ISA granted the authorization.

“We’ve been caught off guard by this,” Arlo Hemphill, a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, an organization campaigning to prevent deep sea mining operations, told Mongabay in an interview. “There’s been little time for us to react.”

deep-sea
A tripod fish observed in the deep-sea. Image by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Mounting concerns, sudden actions

Several weeks ago, in July and August, delegates to the ISA met in Kingston, Jamaica, to discuss how, when and if deep sea mining could begin. In July 2021, discussions acquired a sense of urgency when the Pacific island state of Nauru triggered an arcane rule embedded in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that could obligate the ISA to kick-start exploitation in about two years with whatever rules are in place at the time. Nauru is the sponsor of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a subsidiary of TMC that is undertaking the tests. TMC told Mongabay that it expects to apply for its exploitation license in 2023, and if approved by the ISA, to begin mining towards the end of 2024.

The ISA subsequently scheduled a series of meetings to accelerate the development of mining regulations, but has yet to adopt a final set of rules.

The delay is due, in part, to the increasing number of states and observers from civil society raising concerns about the safety and necessity of deep sea mining. Some member states, including Palau, Fiji and Samoa, have even called for a moratorium on deep sea mining until more is understood about the marine environment that companies want to exploit. Other concerns hinge upon an environmental impact statement (EIS) that NORI had to submit in order for mining to begin.

NORI submitted an initial draft of its EIS in July 2021, as per ISA requirements, and an updated version in March 2022.

Matt Gianni, a political and policy adviser for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), a group of environmental NGOs calling for NORI’s testing approval to be rescinded, said that the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) — the organ responsible for issuing mining licenses — previously cited “serious concerns” about NORI’s EIS, including the fact that it lacked baseline environmental data. The LTC had also raised concerns about the comprehensiveness of the group’s Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP), he said.

But then, “all of a sudden,” the LTC granted approval for the mining test without first consulting ISA council members, said Gianni, who acts as an observer at ISA meetings.

The fact that TMC announced the decision before the ISA did “reinforces the impression that it’s the contractor and the LTC and the [ISA] secretariat that are driving the agenda, and states are following along,” Gianni said.

Harald Brekke, chair of the LTC, sent Mongabay a statement similarly worded to the recent announcement made by the ISA. He said that the LTC had reviewed NORI’s EIS and EMMP for “completeness, accuracy and statistical reliability,” and that an internal working group had worked closely with NORI to address concerns. In response, the mining group adequately dealt with the issues, which allowed the LTC to approve the proposed testing activities, he said.

“This is a normal contract procedure between the [ISA] Secretary-General and the Contractor, on the advice and recommendations by the [Legal and Technical] Commission,” Brekke said in the emailed statement. “It is not a decision to be made by the [ISA] Council. According to the normal procedure of ISA, the details of this process will be [communicated] by the Chair of the Commission to the Council at its session in November.”

“I also would like to point out that this procedure has followed the regulations and guidelines of ISA,” Brekke added, “which are implemented to take care of the possible environmental impacts of this kind of exploration activity.”

Yet Gianni said he did not believe the LTC had satisfactorily reviewed the EIS for its full potential of environmental impact, nor had it considered the “serious harmful effects on vulnerable marine ecosystems” as required under the ISA’s own exploration regulations for polymetallic nodules.

Questions about transparency

Sandor Mulsow, who worked as the director of environment and minerals at the ISA between 2013 and 2019, said that the ISA “is not fit to carry out an analysis of environmental impact assessment” and that the grounds on which the ISA authorized NORI to begin testing were questionable.

“Unfortunately, the [International] Seabed Authority is pro-mining,” Mulsow, who now works as a professor at Universidad Austral de Chile, said in an interview with Mongabay. “They’re not complying with the role of protecting the common heritage of humankind.”

A recent investigation by the New York Times revealed that the ISA gave TMC critical information over a 15-year period that allowed the company to access some of the most valuable seabed areas marked for mining, giving it an unfair advantage over other contractors.

The ISA has also frequently been criticized for its lack of transparency, including the fact that the LTC meets behind closed doors and provides few details about why it approves mining proposals. The ISA has previously granted dozens of exploratory mining licenses to contractors, although none have yet received an exploitation license. While NORI is not technically undertaking exploratory mining in this instance, their testing of mining equipment falls under exploration regulations.

Mongabay reported that transparency issues were even prominent during the ISA meetings that took place in July and August this year, including restrictions on participation and limited access to key information for civil society members.

The ISA did not respond to questions posed by Mongabay, instead deferring to the statement from Brekke, the LTC chair.

A sea cucumber
A sea cucumber seen at 5,100 meters (3.2 miles) depth on abyssal sediments in the western Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Image by DeepCCZ expedition/NOAA via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

‘Full-blown mining in test form’

During the mining trial set to take place in the CCZ — which could begin as early as next week — NORI will be testing out its nodule collector vehicles and riser systems that will draw the nodules about 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) from the seabed to the surface. If NORI does begin exploitation in 2024, Gianni said the risers will be pumping about 10,000 metric tons of nodules up to a ship per day.

“That’s a hell of a lot,” Gianni said. “This is heavy duty machinery. This is piping that has to withstand considerable pressure.”

NORI intends to extract 1.3 million metric tons of wet nodules each year in the exploitation stage of its operation, TMC reported.

The Metals Company argues that this mining will provide minerals necessary to power a global shift toward clean energy. Indeed, demand for such minerals is growing as nations urge consumers to take up electric vehicles in an effort to combat climate change.

Mining opponents, however, have argued that renewable technologies like electric cars don’t actually need the minerals procured from mining.

Moreover, a growing cadre of scientists have been warning against the dangers of deep sea mining, arguing that we don’t know enough about deep sea environments to destroy them. What we do know about the deep sea suggests that mining could have far-reaching consequences, such as disturbing phytoplankton blooms at the sea’s surface, introducing toxic metals into marine food webs, and dispersing mining waste over long distances across the ocean — far enough to affect distant fisheries and delicate ecosystems like coral reefs and seamounts.

“Every time somebody goes and collects some sample in that area of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, there’s a new species coming up,” Mulsow said. “We don’t know how to name them, and we want to destroy them.”

TMC has stated that the testing activities will be monitored by “independent scientists from a dozen leading research institutions around the world.”

However, Hemphill of Greenpeace, who also has ISA observer status, questions whether the monitoring process will be unbiased.

“We’re thinking there’s a high chance that these risers might not work,” he said. “But if there’s not a third party observer out there, then we just have to rely on The Metals Company’s own recording.”

“It’s going to be basically a full-blown mining operation in test form, where they’re not only using the [collector] equipment, but they’re using the risers to bring the nodules to the surface,” Hemphill added.

Nodule collection trials like the one NORI is undertaking haven’t been conducted in the CCZ since the 1970s, TMC noted in its press release.

When Mongabay reached out to TMC for further information about its operation, a spokesperson for the company said that they “believe that polymetallic nodules are a compelling solution to the critical mineral supply challenges facing society in our transition away from fossil fuels.”

“While concern is justified as to the potential impacts of any source of metals — whether from land or sea — significant attention has been paid to mitigate these, including by setting aside more area for protection than is under license in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean,” the TMC spokesperson said.

‘No way back’

Mulsow said he was sure that this trial would pave the way for exploitation to start next year, not only giving TMC’s NORI access to the deep sea’s resources, but opening the gates for other contractors to begin similar operations.

“[In June] 2023, we will have … the application for the first mining license for the deep sea,” he said, “and then there will be no way back.”

Hemphill said he also feared the move would set a process into motion for mining to start next year — but added that Greenpeace would continue its fight to stop mining.

“We’re not giving up just because the two-year rule comes to pass,” he said. “And then if things get started, we’re in this for the long haul.”

Gianni said he was hopeful that the dynamic could also change at the next ISA meeting scheduled for November, in which delegates will get the chance to discuss whether they’re obligated to approve the start of mining the following year.

“The fact that the LTC has done this … may finally get council members to start saying, ‘Wait a minute, we need to bring this renegade fiefdom [at] the heart of the ISA structure under control,” Gianni said, “because they’re going off and deciding things in spite of all the reservations that are being expressed by the countries that are members of the ISA.”


Featured image and all other images, unless mentioned otherwise, were provided by Julia Barnes.