A crucial decision for the ocean and the climate 

This July 2023, the future of the deep ocean is at stake in Kingston (Jamaica), headquarters of the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Meeting in a General Assembly, the 168 member countries of the ISA are to decide whether to authorize, or not, the exploitation of the mineral resources of the Clarion-Clipperton Fault in the Pacific. Despite being presented as “indispensable” to the energy transition of Northern countries and an opportunity for economic development, a growing number of voices are speaking out against the associated impacts.

1. Marine sediments form the planet’s largest carbon stock, sequestered for millions of years. Should we risk re-emitting this carbon into the atmosphere to manufacture the batteries for our low-carbon vehicles?

2. The abyssal plains are home to an abundant, specific and still largely unknown fauna, as demonstrated by the latest explorations carried out by MBARI and the Schmidt Ocean Institute. What will become of this unique biodiversity, which probably contains the genetic and biological resources of tomorrow? 

 3. The micro-organisms present on the surface and around nodules could be absolutely essential in regulating deep-sea food chains, and… in carbon mineralization!


There are countless arguments in favor of in-depth scientific research on the issues surrounding “Deep Sea Mining”.   

A coalition led by France, Chile and a number of Pacific island states is calling for a “precautionary pause” on mining. Now ratified by some twenty countries, this moratorium is still in the minority, but could well benefit from a favourable international agenda (Montreal-Kunming 30×30 agreement, BBNJ treaty on biodiversity in the high seas, etc.).   

With some thirty licence applications officially submitted, there is no doubt that this ground-breaking decision will set a precedent for the global ocean.  

Photos: Philweb and  Schmidt Ocean Institute