Greenpeace calls for global ban after leaked footage shows mining waste pouring into Pacific Ocean

The footage appears to show deep-sea sediment overflowing into the ocean.
The footage appears to show deep-sea sediment overflowing into the ocean. Photo credit: Supplied

Greenpeace is calling for a global ban on deep sea mining after leaked footage emerged showing wastewater pouring into the Pacific Ocean during mining tests. 

The undercover footage, which was released by MiningWatch Canada, Greenpeace International and Deep Sea Mining Campaign, allegedly shows wastewater flowing into the ocean during deep sea mining tests by Vancouver based The Metals Company. 

Greenpeace said the "damning" footage "exposes the industry greenwash and just how damaging deep-sea mining could be to ocean health". 

The mining tests were carried out between mid-September and mid-November 2022 by TMC and its Swiss operating partner and shareholder Allseas using the drill ship Hidden Gem in the Clarion Clipperton Zone between México and Hawaii.

The footage appears to show deep-sea sediment overflowing into the ocean from the ship's deck. 

"This footage is damning evidence of the potential threat deep sea mining poses for ocean health and illustrates exactly why Greenpeace and our allies are urgently calling for a halt to deep sea mining," Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner James Hita said. 

"What you're seeing in this footage is pulverised rock and sediment pulled from the deep, where it's supposed to be, spilling off The Hidden Gem onto the surface of the ocean in a dirty plume - potentially smothering marine life in the process.

"This is a far cry from the images circulated by the Metals Company showing shiny, futuristic mining machinery - literally artists' impressions - which are being used to sanitise and greenwash an industry that threatens ocean health."

Hita also hit out at the company for not reporting the overflow to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) - the body charged with protecting the deep-sea environment while also facilitating seabed mining. 

"Our message to The Metals Company and the deep sea mining industry remains the same. We will not stand by while industry places profit before people and the health of the planet. We are courageous and we will oppose you at every step." 

Hita said the footage also highlights the need for a global ban on deep-sea mining. 

"The tide is turning on deep-sea mining after the New Zealand Government announced last year its support for a conditional global moratorium on deep-sea mining, until strong regulations, backed by robust science, were in place to protect the marine environment in international waters.

"The undercover footage makes it clear why the New Zealand Government needs to champion a global ban on deep sea mining at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) conference in March this year. We need urgent action that protects the ocean." 

In a statement to Glacier Media, The Metals Company confirmed the leaked footage showed an incident in October 2022 when a surge of water overwhelmed a machine that separates the deep-sea nodules from sediment. 

The company said it was "a minor overflow" where some sediment and fragments of nodules poured out of the machine and over the ship's deck during the seven to eight-hour test run. 

"When safe to do so the test run was stopped in a controlled manner," the company told Glacier Media.  

The Metals Company said an assessment was carried out to see if the incident had the potential to harm the marine environment which found it didn't and therefore it was "not a reportable incident". The company said it modified the separator so the latest test runs didn't lead to overflows. 

It told Glacier Media the incident was later reported to ISA "as a matter of courtesy".