A seabed minerals company has been accused of rushing a landmark mining test in the Pacific.
It comes as the company Nauru Ocean Resources prepares to conduct deep-sea mining ahead of the first international guidelines for the practice.
Nauru is sponsoring Nauru Ocean Resources, a subsidiary of Canada-based The Metals Company, to run a two-month mining test in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico.
Corey McLachlan from the Metals Company said although they are yet to start the test, results were expected by the end of the year.
“It’s a critical milestone in being able to help collect the information that’s required, and for the International Seabed Authority to make a future decision on whether or not a project should advance,” he said.
It has been nearly a year since Nauru triggered the International Seabed Authority’s two-year rule, which means the body has until June next year to draft and provisionally approve a deep-sea mining contract.
Deep-sea mining involves extracting small lumps of rock that contain precious metals from the deep ocean floor — the proposed test would take place at depths of 4,000-5,500 metres.
But the test has sparked alarm for three environmental groups, including the Pacific Blue Line based in Fiji, who say it shouldn’t go ahead until more is known about seabed mining.
Helen Rosenbaum from the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said there are significant risks for Pacific nations, who are already facing severe impacts of climate change.
She believes it is a conflict of interest for Nauru and the Metals Company to lead environmental assessments, and would prefer independent scientists conduct the work.
“I would prefer to trust the expert advice of people who don’t have a vested interest in trying to turn a dollar from deep sea mining to those of The Metals Company,” Dr Rosenbaum said.
Nauru’s government didn’t respond to Pacific Beat’s requests for comment.
Nauru Ocean Resources expects to get a response from the International Seabed Authority in July on whether its planned test can go ahead.