An online channel for exploratory video and documentary reporting


July 2022
What is Deep Sea Mining?
Episode 5: The Pacific Precedent

With Margarida Mendes
The first deep sea mining tests took place in the Pacific in 2015, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. This has brought strong contestation by local communities, whose lands have been expropriated and whose economy depends on fishing. Resistance by local and indigenous groups has been exemplary in territorial waters of Pacific island nations states, where numerous initiatives - among them PANG and Solwara Warriors - have emerged to inform the population and protect its common resources. While mining itself never began commercially, the mining company’s recent bankruptcy has reportedly left the Papua New Guinea government with a $120 million debt. Now that Pacific nations have seen the exploitative outcome of the corporate Global North’s deep sea mining intentions in Papua New Guinea’s territorial waters, PANG and others are advocating for a deep sea mining ban.

The closing episode of the webseries What is Deep Sea Mining? is narrated by Maureen Penjueli from the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), a regional watchdog, established in 2009, that promoted Pacific peoples’ rights to be self-determining, advocating for free, prior, and informed consent for Indigenous peoples of the Bismarck Sea in accordance with international law. Addressing issues of scale, political representation, and resource politics, Penjueli reiterates the importance of the oceans' role in securing the carbon equation and contributing to planetary resilience. As such, she calls for the possibility of making politics from an oceanic point of view, that learns from the Pacific Nation’s perspective.

What is Deep Sea Mining? is a five episode web series dedicated to the topic of deep sea mining, a new frontier of resource extraction at the bottom of the ocean, set to begin in the next few years. Deep sea mining will occur mainly in areas rich in polymetallic nodules, in seamounts, and in hydrothermal vents. Mining companies are already leasing areas in national and international waters in order to extract minerals and metals such as manganese, cobalt, gold, copper, iron, and other rare earth elements from the seabed. Main sites targeted for future exploration are the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Clarion Clipperton Zone (Pacific Ocean) in international waters, as well as the islands of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Japan, and the Portuguese Azores archipelago. Yet, potential impacts on deep sea ecosystems are yet to be assessed by the scientific community, and local communities are not being consulted.

The prospects of this new, experimental form of mining are re-actualizing a colonial, frontier mentality and redefining extractivist economies for the twenty-first century. This web series addresses different issues related to this process, from ocean governance by international bodies to knowledge of the deep, following the lines proposed by the United Nations for a shift towards a "blue economy," but also efforts to defend sustained ocean literacy about the deep ocean, when its species and resources remain largely unmapped and unstudied.

What is Deep Sea Mining? is developed in collaboration with Margarida Mendes, curator and activist from Lisbon, Portugal, and founding member of Oceano Livre environmental movement against deep sea mining. What is Deep Sea Mining? is a web series commissioned by TBA21–Academy.

For more information and links to NGOs, advocacy, and activist groups involved in deep sea mining please follow the extras below.

Acknowledgements: Maureen Penjueli, and everyone who helped this web series and this episode in particular. Special thanks to: Markus Reymann, Stefanie Hessler, and Filipa Ramos.


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