GSR responds to Greenpeace report “Deep Trouble”

December 9, 2020

Press Release
GSR statement Greenpeace’s new report on deep sea mining, published today (9th December) opens with a question: “In a planetary emergency, why would governments open up a new frontier for mining in the ocean?” It’s unclear if the authors intend the question to be rhetorical, but it surely is, since the planetary emergency is precisely, and self-evidently, why society needs new sources of minerals.   We need to be taking a holistic, planetary, approach when deciding what the most responsible sources are.  We should be encouraging research into the various options while supporting a diversification of supply. Greenpeace is right to call on governments to redouble their efforts on recycling and reuse, but all analyses conclude that recycling and reuse is not enough to meet the demands of population growth, urbanisation and the clean energy transition. These studies show that vast quantities of primary metals will be required before the prospect of a circular economy can become a reality. The question then, is: where should these metals come from and how can they be sourced in the most responsible way?  For many environmental and social reasons, we believe seabed minerals could be an important part of the solution.  Accordingly, we are engaged in a multi-year research programme, working with an international team of independent scientists, to gather the necessary data so that rational, evidence-based decisions can be made. Greenpeace contacted GSR prior to the publication of its report, asking for responses to a series of questions and assertions. We responded in full and we are disappointed that not a single word of our response was included. Our detailed responses to the questions Greenpeace asked can be found here. In the meantime, we respond to the main themes of the Greenpeace report below: Transparency Transparency is central to the way GSR conducts its business. We have committed fully to public participation and we engage openly with numerous scientists, academic institutions, and NGOs around the world. Greenpeace is wrong in its characterisation of entities controlled by DEME as shell companies. They are nothing of the sort. They each have a specific business purpose and their financial statements, including assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses are incorporated in the consolidated financial statements of DEME. Greenpeace’s attempts to suggest otherwise are disingenuous. Contractors have a duty to develop the most responsible technologies for the recovery of seabed minerals and we are very proud of the responsible and precautionary approach we take to project development. We work in partnership with other organisations that have particular capabilities and areas of expertise. There is nothing surprising or unusual about this. Regulatory process Twenty countries are now actively engaged in seabed mineral exploration. All have an interest in a clear and settled regulatory regime to govern commercial activity, as indeed does humankind given the urgent need for new sources of responsibly sourced minerals. The step-by-step development of the mining regulations has been underway since 2011, which hardly seems like a rushed effort towards the finalization of the regulations, as Greenpeace claims. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has been developing regulations through a transparent, multi-stakeholder participation process. Technical papers, working papers, and written surveys have been published, and workshops have been held worldwide, addressing the administrative, environmental, legal, technological and financial considerations of a state-of-the-art regulatory framework. As far as GSR is aware, this is the first time in history that so much thought has been put into regulating an industry that doesn’t yet exist. Royalties and payments to developing States The payment regime is still in the process of being finalised. According to the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), the regime must ensure optimum revenues for the ISA, attract investment and technology and ensure contractors receive equal treatment and have comparable financial obligations. The regime must have a system of payments to the ISA that is fair to both the contractor and to the ISA. The system should not be complicated and should not impose major administrative costs on the ISA or on contractors. Last but not least, the system should not advantage or disadvantage land-based mining over seabed mining. Workshops to discuss the payment regime drew on expertise and input from multiple stakeholders, including industry experts, civil society, academic communities, national governments, and international organizations. Partnerships with developing States The Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) calls for the participation of developing States in areas beyond national jurisdiction and it provides for joint venture agreements that allow these nations to access the necessary technology and expertise. Without these provisions, developing States would be deprived of the opportunity to benefit from deep seabed mining technology and related scientific knowledge. When a contractor applies to the ISA for a Plan of Work for exploration, the contract area must be divided into two parts of equal estimated commercial value; the ISA decides which part can be further explored by the contractor, with the other part becoming a reserved area for a developing State. GSR submitted its application for a Plan of Work for exploration in 2012. In 2016, the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) applied for the reserved area. Given GSR’s familiarity with the contract area, CIIC used GSR’s historical information to apply for its own exploration contract. Following its successful application, CIIC developed a joint venture arrangement with GSR to assist with the implementation of its contract according to Best Available Techniques (BAT). GSR is honoured and proud to be partnering with the Cook Islands. Liability of developing States Sponsoring States must ensure that activities conform to LOSC. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) analysed this provision in 2011 concluding that the obligation is one of “due diligence”. The sponsoring State is bound to make best possible efforts to secure compliance with LOSC by the sponsored contractors. This “due diligence” obligation requires the sponsoring State to take measures within its legal system. These measures must consist of laws and regulations and administrative measures. The applicable standard is that the measures must be “reasonably appropriate”. The Cook Islands has met this through its regulatory system.; specifically the Seabed Mining Act of 2019. ENDS