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U.S. Company Seeks to Extend License for Deep-Sea Mining in Pacific
by Center for Biological Diversity
Mining Oceans Depths Poses Risks to Global Biodiversity
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2022 — Federal officials today published an application by Lockheed Martin to extend two licenses to mine the deep ocean. These licenses propose exploratory deep-sea mining work in the Pacific Ocean’s Clarion-Clipperton Zone, halfway between Mexico and Hawaii.

The licenses were the subject of a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit in 2015 that resulted in a settlement requiring the federal government to conduct an in-depth analysis of the risks to wildlife and underwater ecosystems.

“Before the Biden administration acts, it must take a hard look at this growing threat to the world’s oceans,” said attorney Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center’s Oceans program. “Mining the deep sea is as destructive as strip mining the mountains of Appalachia, extinguishing whole ecosystems with a single blow. The federal government shouldn’t renew these licenses, and it needs to follow the lead of West Coast states and ban deep seabed mining.”

Exploratory contracts for deep-sea mining have been issued for more than 1.3 million square kilometers of the high seas by the International Seabed Authority, the body established under the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea to regulate deep seabed mining and award mining contracts in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Because the United States is not a party to the Law of the Sea Convention and not a member of the International Seabed Authority, it has a separate licensing system.

The areas of the deep sea where mining contracts have been issued support some of the most biodiverse and scientifically important ecosystems on Earth. Scientists fear the practice could devastate deepwater ecosystems, both directly by destroying life in the seabed, and indirectly by generating sediment plumes, light pollution, noise and toxins that would affect life far beyond the actual mining sites.

Most of the species and ecosystems in the areas where deep-sea mining would occur have not been well studied, nor have the potential consequences of mining them. In recognition of these risks, many governments have banned the practice. A bill introduced last month in the California legislature, the California Seabed Mining Protection Act, would protect 2,500 square miles of seafloor. If the bill becomes law, California will join Washington and Oregon, which banned the practice in 1995 and 2001, respectively.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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