Deep Down Under: Australia and the Pacific are at risk from deep sea mining

Australia’s island nations and the fifteen Pacific Island nations, which are located at the bottom of the world, are well-known and adored throughout the world for their abundant marine life, laid-back lifestyle, and access to clean waterways.

For First Nations and Pasifika people, who have strong ties to the ocean, the seas of the South Pacific seas preserve the stories of tens of thousands of years of history and cultural legacy. David Attenborough has dubbed the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Australia, “the most magical place on the entire planet”.

However, these vital waters are in danger if left unprotected. Australia has a significant responsibility to safeguard the oceans, as we watch our priceless coastlines disappear due to damaging deep-sea mining. 

These are five things to be aware of regarding the South Pacific’s struggle to prevent deep-sea mining.

  1. Our way of life depends on the oceans.

Over 22 million of Australia’s 26 million residents reside 50 kilometers or less from the coast. Life abounds in our coastal locations.

Indigenous cultures in Australia and other Pacific island cultures place a high cultural value on the oceans due to their inextricable link to the water and the life it sustains. Pacific leaders are concerned that deep-sea mining could permanently harm fish stocks, affecting a key source of food for millions of people.

  1. In two Australian states, offshore mining is banned.

Off their shores, two countries have banned underwater mining. Following a three-year moratorium in its coastal waters, the Northern Territory government officially outlawed seabed mining in the Territory in 2021. Last year, the New South Wales government banned offshore mining and oil and gas development off its coast as a result of a massive grassroots movement by ocean lovers to oppose this destructive sector.

  1. Gerard Barron, an Australian businessman, is in charge of the Metals Corporation.

Target of Greenpeace International’s recent 200-hour at-sea protest, The Metals Company (TMC), the main player lobbying for a deep sea mining license in the Pacific Ocean.

Australian businessman Gerard Barron serves as TMC’s CEO. In the UK, he is allegedly facing legal issues as the director of Winward, a firm that went bankrupt in 2018 and seemed to be investing millions of pounds in Barron’s other endeavors. Due to allegations of financial mismanagement, including deceiving investors and other inquiries, TMC is currently facing numerous legal issues. It appears that TMC is the perfect candidate to extract wealth from the ocean.

  1. The former Australian prime minister has dubious ties to mining and armaments.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and notorious Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison—the man who proudly displayed a lump of coal in parliament and jetted off to a tropical vacation while Australia burned—are reportedly promoting deep sea mining for the global arms trade.

Morrison, the leader of the conservative Liberal Party in Australia, lost his position in 2022. Greenpeace Australia Pacific has referred to the Seafloor Minerals Fund, which he joined subsequently, as a “front for war-hungry investors who want to supercharge the weapons industry.”

  1. The Australian government is no longer in favor of a moratorium.

Australia’s new Labor administration and prime minister Anthony Albanese have not yet signed a moratorium on deep-sea mining, despite mounting local demand. Twenty-five nations throughout the world, including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and New Zealand, Australia’s neighbors, are in favor of an international ban.