Deep Sea Mining: Boost for economy but bane for future generations?

Will the exploitation of the ocean floor leave the future generations bereft of its bounty?

Deep sea mining

India’s ‘Deep Sea Mission’ was to be launched in the year 2019. With a Rs. 8,000 crore plan, the government planned to explore and extract deep sea minerals that lay on the ocean floor at a depth of 6,000 m that would be used in the manufacture of electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and solar panels among other things.

A threat to marine biodiversity, possibly ruining the species and the ecosystem, if carried out on an industrial scale, as is the plan, deep sea mining will cause damage that could possibly never be restored.

In light of this, The Goa Foundation (TGF) and The Future We Need (TFWN) have jointly launched a global campaign demanding the implementation of the inter-generational equity principle in deep sea mining in waters beyond national jurisdictions, reported The Ecologist.

The inter-generational equity principle talks about the right of every generation to benefit from natural resources. The main objective of the principle is to ensure that the present generation does not abuse the non-renewable resources so as to deprive the future generations from its benefit.

In its press release dated February 3, 2020, The Goa Foundation says that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) declares that the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (comprising the seabed, ocean floor and subsoil, excluding the water above) (called the “Area,” in short) and its resources are the Common Heritage of Mankind (CHM). All rights in the resources of the Area are vested in mankind as a whole. UNCLOS provides that activities in the Area shall be organized, carried out and controlled by the International Seabed Authority (the Authority”) for the benefit of mankind as a whole, on whose behalf the Authority shall act.

The campaigners argue that the mineral resources in the area are a “shared inheritance” They say it is our duty to ensure to conserve our inheritance to exercise our right to consume from it and allow future generations the same benefit.

Dr Claude Alvares, Director, Goa Foundation says: “We launched this campaign because this is a great opportunity for us to proactively protect the wealth of our future generations. Making sure the principle of Intergenerational Equity is at the core of any Deep Seabed Mining in the Area will guarantee this. For millennia, community property across the planet has been captured by a few through a variety of means. Any loss from the commons is effectively a per-head tax on every human being, while making a few individuals super-rich – an unfair redistribution. Future generations are deprived of their shared inheritance. We must ensure that this is not the future our children will inherit.”

Rahul Basu, Member, The Future We Need, noted: “Our movement has been fighting for the intergenerational equity principle to be foundational to civilization and our economy. Too often, our inherited wealth is stolen on the excuse that these essential principles have not been articulated in the policy and laws. Now we have an excellent opportunity for all humans alive to directly impact the way our shared inheritance of mineral wealth is used in the future. We hope the Authority does the right thing for the future of of all human beings and all living creatures.”

TGF and TFWN say that deep sea mining is starting and the International Seabed Authority is finalizing the terms of extraction, and how the mineral sale proceeds will be utilized. They say, “It is apparent that we have little idea either about the value of the minerals in the Area, or its environmental resources. We also have little idea of the damage extraction will ensure. If the Authority contracts to sell our wealth without knowing its value, we will almost certainly suffer a loss. On behalf of humankind, the Authority must place a moratorium on extraction until we have a far better understanding of the value of what we have inherited.”

The organizations now demand that the Authority keep the intergenerational equity principle at the center of its thinking. Since extraction is effectively the sale of the mineral wealth, intergenerational equity requires Zero Loss in value of the minerals extracted, saving the entire mineral sale proceeds in a Global Future Generations Fund and distributing only the real income of the fund as a Global Commons Dividend, equally to all humankind as a right of ownership.

The complete demand letter by TGF and TFWN may be read here.


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