Organized by the the anti-racsim initiative and ecology working group of the G20 Interfaith Forum, the webinar brought to light the links between deep-sea mining and racism.
The deep seabed areas being targeted for mining are between 600 meters and 8 kilometers in depth and are the least-explored areas on earth. These ecosystems are critical habitats for deep marine life about which we know little.
Dr Catherine Coumans, research coordinator and Pacific program coordinator (Asia) at Mining Watch Canada, shared that Pacific Nations can authorize deep-sea mining in their territorial waters, but for mining to happen in international waters, permits must be granted by the International Seabed Authority.
“Thirty-one exploration permits have currently been issued to wealthy countries, who are behind the push for deep-sea mining—justifying it as a huge step forward for greener economies because many of the rare minerals used in technology manufacturing can be found on the ocean floor,” explained Coumans.
“Deep-sea mining is usually framed as having little to no impact and staggering benefits, but people are not calculating the real costs of the practice,” said Maureen Penjueli, coordinator for the Pacific Network on Globalization.
“On one hand, we’re considered the moral authority on the climate crisis, but we’re also going to be on the forefront of a race that nobody yet understands,” she said.
Penjueli, a Pacific islander and ocean activist, added that the argument that deep-sea mining is “green" is a false one, since the consequences of harming the ocean could be disastrous. “Eighty-three precent of global carbon is circulated through the oceans, oceans absorb heat, and every second breath that we take is thanks to the functions of the ocean,” she added.
“Racism can take many forms, including flowing through unfair economic systems,” said Ralph Regenvanu, a member of the parliament of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers.
“The Pacific is the most colonized region of the earth, and our islands were straitjacketed into the western model of democratic nation-states in order to survive,” he added. “As states are parasitic in nature, and can’t survive without taxation or resource extraction, and it is now the Pacific’s own indigenous leaders who are making the decision to go down the path of deep-sea mining due to the structure in which they exist.”
Asked if a moratorium should be created to stop the mining, he said: “We need to take deep-sea mining off the menu completely so that Pacific island countries can plan their futures without this as an option.”
The webinar was moderated by Athena Peralta, programme executive at the World Council of Churches, and Rev. Dr Upolu Luma Vaai, principal of the Pacific Theological College. Other panelists included His Eminence Sir John Cardinal Ribat, metropolitan archbishop of Port Moresby; and Dr Kristina M. Gjerde, senior high seas advisor to IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.