Environmental organizations welcome the government’s “precautionary position”

The Portuguese government on Friday defended a precautionary pause in the exploration and extraction of minerals in international waters. The position was taken publicly in Jamaica, where representatives from several states gathered this week for a session of the board of directors of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), responsible for regulating deep-sea mining. .

In response, the Portuguese environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOS) ANP|WWF, Sciaena and Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) “congratulate the Portuguese government for its support for a precautionary pause in deep sea mining”, inform in a press release , explaining that this was due to the “lack of regulation and insufficient scientific knowledge”, which “still do not allow an effective evaluation of this activity, nor guarantee that the possible impacts arising from this activity are fully understood and not cause harmful effects on the marine environment”.

Deep sea mining is intended to extract minerals such as copper, cobalt, nickel or manganese from the bottom of the sea, with heavy machinery operating under very adverse and risky conditions (great depth and subject to pressure), locally destroying ecosystems and disrupting others hundreds of kilometers away. Although scientific knowledge is still scarce on the possible environmental and ecological impacts of this activity, the NGOs point out that “it is known that if the industry progresses, the intensity and methods of mining could destroy entire habitats , extinguishing species and compromising the benefits of ecosystems”. for Humanity, also harming local populations, mainly coastal communities, under the false pretext of the energy transition”.

The Portuguese organizations recall that the position now taken by the government comes “after more than a year of silence” on deep-sea mining, but “has finally answered the call of personalities, scientists and organizations environmental non-governmental organizations (ONGA)”. Thus, Portugal finally joins “the growing list of nations advocating precautionary pauses or moratoriums on the start of this activity in international waters”.

In a note, they recall that in March of this year, “30 personalities signed an open letter addressed to the Portuguese government calling for deep sea mining to be considered unfeasible, not only in the most vulnerable areas , with high biodiversity or in protected areas”. , but in the whole ocean”.

Furthermore, they recall that in the same month the regional government of the Azores had publicly agreed to a moratorium on this activity, with the regional secretary for sea and fisheries, Manuel São João, declaring that “mining in the high sea ​​in this region, with the warnings of the scientific community in unison, is incompatible with what we want and defend for the greatest asset of the Azores: our sea”.

For Catarina Grilo, Director of Conservation and Policy at the ANP | WWF, “by supporting a precautionary pause in deep-sea mining, the Portuguese government is finally indicating a path of political courage long claimed by civil society: that of responsibility and commitment to the preservation of marine ecosystems , above the economic interests of an activity that would only benefit mining companies”.

Ana Matias, Climate and Pollution Coordinator at Sciaena, points out that, following the position taken by the Portuguese government, “diplomatic work must continue with all States so that it is a common and dominant position within the United Nations”.

The official hopes that the executive headed by Prime Minister António Costa “will take the same position at the national level, protecting the national ecosystems of the deep seabed, in particular the rich biodiversity of the deep seabed of the Azores”.

Eugénia Barroca, SOA representative for Europe and Lusophony, notes that “we hope that the proposals for modification of the fundamental law for the planning of maritime space that are on the table already envisage the moratorium, and that the ‘Assembly of the Republic will also stop the regulation of deep sea mining strangely included in the basic climate law at the last minute’.

It is recalled that in 2021, the island state of Nauru in the Pacific Ocean triggered what became known as the “two-year rule”, after it said it intended to submit an application to the name of a company to obtain a license to explore the depths of international funds.

Portuguese NGOs explain that this rule establishes that after two years, all applications must be examined for “provisional approval”, thus opening the doors to this “harmful activity”.

However, the ISA board could not agree on the consequences of not passing the regulations, leaving the process around deep sea mining on a “path of uncertainty”. legal”.

“Organizations around the world are now calling on governments to take a strong stand against this activity, safeguarding biodiversity at the expense of economic interests. There are already 21 countries to comply with this call,” they point out.

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