Grijalva, Case, House Democrats Urge President Biden to Support Pause on Deep-Sea Mining

WASHINGTON- Today, U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) led a letter signed by a dozen House Democrats urging President Biden to support a moratorium on deep-seabed mining until there is sufficient scientific information on its potential environmental, social, and economic impacts.

In their letter, the lawmakers highlight the importance of this fragile ecosystem, saying, “The deep sea is crucial in climate regulation and carbon sequestration and is a critical component of fisheries production and ecosystem health. On every expedition to the deep sea, discoveries are made. In 2023, a study by the UK’s Natural History Museum found that there are potentially thousands of yet-identified species in the Clarion Clipperton Zone alone. If deep-sea mining is permitted, we risk losing species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services.”

The lawmakers outline the potential and untold risks posed by Canadian-owned Twin Metals’ impending application for deep-sea mining and requests that the U.S. join a long list of other countries and experts supporting a moratorium. They point out how existing mineral sources, recycling programs, and technological advancements can negate the need for deep-sea mining and further encourage a precautionary approach to exploiting the deep sea:

“Instead of opening the deep seabed to large-scale industrial mining amid a triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, the US should prioritize scientific research, environmental protection and precaution, and the cultural importance of the deep ocean to Native Hawaiians and many Indigenous peoples across the Pacific by supporting a precautionary pause or moratorium on deep-sea mining.”

READ the full letter to President Biden here.

Additional Background

Natural Resources Committee Democrats have consistently fought to keep the pristine and fragile ecosystems of the deep sea safe, including H.R. 4537, the American Seabed Protection Act, and H.R. 4536, the International Seabed Protection Act. Both bills would protect the seabed from destructive deep-sea mining efforts.

Deep-sea mining is the process of extracting nodules from the ocean floor. These nodules may contain critical minerals including copper, nickel, and cobalt. However, the deep-sea ecosystem is incredibly fragile, and the impact that the disruption of this ecosystem will have on the deep sea and global systems at large is scientifically unclear. The deep sea plays an important role in crucial ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and habitat for thousands of rare species.

More than 750 marine science and policy experts, more than 450 NGOs, 69 Indigenous groups, 47 companies and financial institutions, and 27 countries have called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining.

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Lindsay Gressard