Turbulence in Deep-Sea Mining: Greenpeace Activists Disrupt Research Vessel Operations

Legal Battle Ensues as Environmental Activists Challenge Deep-Sea Mining Exploration


In a recent development, a cadre of Greenpeace activists has successfully disrupted the operations of the deep-sea mining research vessel Coco, currently deployed in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone for the assessment of a polymetallic nodule lease area. Greenpeace’s vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, employed two kayaks and two small boats to impede the vessel’s activities on the water, while a daring five-person climb team utilized a hook, rope, and ascenders to board the Coco’s stern-mounted A-frame. Occupying the platform at the structure’s zenith, the activists aim to obstruct ongoing operations.

NORI, the charterer of the vessel and a subsidiary of The Metals Company (TMC), has responded by initiating legal action in the Netherlands, seeking an injunction to compel Greenpeace to cease its protest. NORI, through TMC, alleges damages amounting to approximately $10 million if the protesters persist in obstructing the vessel’s mission. Despite legal pressures, Greenpeace remains steadfast in its protest, with NORI expressing the understanding that the disruptions will persist until the Coco exits the mineral exploration area.

Greenpeace spokesperson Louisa Casson emphasized the significance of peaceful activism, stating, “Two kayaks, two small boats, and five climbers have rocked this wannabe extractive industry to its core.” The Metals Company intends to apply for international permission to commence seabed mining as early as July 2024, with Greenpeace asserting that the data collected during the Coco’s expedition will play a role in the permitting request.

Tensions between the involved parties have escalated, as TMC accuses Greenpeace of actively disrupting scientific operations critical for assessing the potential environmental impacts of deep-sea mining. ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge has issued a call for an immediate halt to the Greenpeace protest, raising concerns about threats to safety and the marine environment.

A global call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, supported by 24 nations and 800 experts, underscores the need for further research into the potential ecological consequences. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, where the Coco is currently deployed, remains relatively unexplored, with scientific surveys often revealing new species. Critics caution against the unknown and potentially harmful impacts of deep-sea mining on marine life, including sediment plumes, toxin release, and habitat destruction.

As the dispute unfolds, TMC asserts its commitment to necessary research and condemns Greenpeace’s actions as “anti-science, dangerous, illegal.” The company vows to utilize all available legal measures to safeguard stakeholder rights and prevent what they deem as illegal interference with scientific activities. The clash between environmental activism and industrial interests highlights the broader debate surrounding the ecological consequences of deep-sea mining.

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