The start of industrial-scale undersea mining to extract metals for automotive batteries from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean was delayed after the international body responsible for overseeing the work concluded late last week that more time was needed to finalize mining regulations.
action by International Seabed AuthorityIt had set a July goal of finalizing undersea mining regulations, but it did so after pressure from environmental activists and countries opposing the initiative.
This decision most directly affects metal company, The Canada-based mining startup, in partnership with the tiny island nation of Nauru, is looking to obtain its first license to begin industrial-scale mining, possibly as early as next year, but that schedule has now been postponed.
It is unknown how long the delay will occur. Operations are underway by both undersea mining opponents who want to stop mining altogether, and proponents who want to find a way to start mining by around 2025.
Efforts to delay the start are being led by countries such as Costa Rica, Chile and France. The three countries called on other members of the Seabed Authority’s Governing Council to agree that mining in the high seas should not be allowed until the regulations are finalized. The group agreed that this is unlikely to happen until 2025 at the earliest.
“We are on the side of the ocean,” said Gina Guillen Grillo, the Costa Rica representative to the Undersea Authority, who helped guide the opposition to undersea mining. “I know science isn’t good enough. It would be a disaster if we started now.”
Metals Company CEO Gerard Baron said he remains optimistic that the company and its partner Nauru will be able to secure the necessary approvals to begin the effort within the next few years.
Mr. Barron said the metals companies will continue to lobby other countries as seafloor authorities continue to work on things such as environmental standards and royalty rates paid by mining contractors. The company aims to persuade that subsea mining is better for the environment than surface mining in places such as Indonesia and Congo, where battery metals such as nickel, cobalt and copper are currently produced.
“Hopefully we can move forward with the schedule,” Barron said.
Metals companies and Nauru, along with a delegation from China, which is also aggressively promoting seabed mining, unsuccessfully argued at a meeting of seabed authorities last week to set a goal of finalizing regulations by 2024.
Barron said investors in metal companies include: all seas groupa Swiss-based company specializing in offshore oil pipeline operations, is seeking ways to transition to work that can support the electric vehicle industry and remains committed to the project.
As it stands, the Jamaica-based Undersea Authority said: 31 contracts signed for exploration work in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. These agreements will allow sponsor countries and their contractors to collect small amounts of seafloor rocks and cobalt-rich crust while collecting data on the environmental impacts of the process, such as the risk of sediment plumes to other aquatic organisms when lifting rocks.
Areas of greatest focus are Clarion Clipperton ZoneIn a remote area between Mexico and Hawaii, seafloor rocks are the richest in metals. The rock is 4.5 miles below and deep enough to require remote-controlled machinery to lift it to a collection vessel.
convinced that this was an area where metal companies wanted to start mining operations After-tax net cash flow could generate $30 billion Over the 25 years of the initial project. If successful, the small, previously unprofitable company could become one of the world’s largest suppliers of key metals needed for electric vehicle batteries.
One of the biggest questions now is when Nauru will submit an application to start industrial-scale mining. We are aware that it will likely take at least a year for the application to be reviewed and the subsea authorities to act, and they may do so before the regulations are finalized.
If Nauru and metals companies have to wait until the regulations are finalized, undersea mining could start as early as 2026 amid ongoing opposition.
Environmentalists who have worked with countries such as Costa Rica and France to take on the undersea mining challenge said the postponement would give them more time to enlist the help of additional countries that want to suspend or suspend mining for a long time. nearly 20 countries Today, the number of people who support some form of hold is up from just a handful a year ago.