Greenpeace Mexico launches campaign against deep-sea mining

Greenpeace Mexico’s campaign against deep-sea mining at the Port of Veracruz, June 2023. (Image by Ivan Castaneira, Greenpeace.)

About 100 activists, volunteers and citizens led by Greenpeace gathered at the Port of Veracruz to protest against deep-sea mining and demand that the Mexican government takes a strong stand to protect the global ocean.

By building the shape of an octopus with flashlights underneath umbrellas, the Mexican chapter of the NGO announced the launching of a new campaign against mineral extraction from the seafloor. 

“We must stop deep-sea mining before it starts,” Ruth Ramos, campaigner for Stop Underwater Mining, said at the event. “More research is still needed to understand how biodiversity and ecosystems function at the bottom of the ocean, however, we already know enough to understand that deep-sea mining is inconsistent with a sustainable future.” 

Back in November, Greenpeace activists from Mexico and Aotearoa (New Zealand) peacefully confronted, off the coast of Manzanillo in the western Colima state, the Hidden Gem deep-sea mining ship commissioned by The Metals Company, as it was returning to port from the Pacific.

The drillship spent eight weeks of test mining in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a 5,000-kilometre stretch between México and Hawaii, and reportedly mined and lifted on board 3,000 tonnes of polymetallic nodules from the seafloor. Polymetallic nodules are deposits rich in copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese and other critical minerals. 

The Canadian miner already has two exploration contracts for the area and has said its licence hosts enough in situ metal for 280 million electric vehicles, roughly the size of the entire US passenger vehicle fleet today.

However, recent studies have shown that it has taken millions of years for such polymetallic nodules to form and that they are part of the habitat of at least 5,500 marine species, most of which had never been seen before. 

Calling for international action

At the event in Veracruz, Ramos and the rest of the participants issued a call to Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, and to the ambassador in Jamaica, Juan José González Mijares, to support a moratorium on deep-sea mining at the next meeting of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

ISA has set a deadline for July 2023 to enact deep-sea mining regulations.

However,  a growing number of countries including Germany, France, Spain, Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Panama, Palau, Samoa, Fiji and Micronesia, among others, have asked the United Nations-affiliated body to not rush into anything.

Ruth Ramos noted that the moratorium would halt any attempts to legalize deep-sea mining until more data are available regarding its negative impacts on the seafloor and the species that live in or near it.

The activist also pointed out that Article 20 of Mexico’s new Mining Law forbids deep-sea mining in Mexican waters and that, therefore, it makes sense to push for a moratorium as all oceans are interconnected and must be protected from all corners of the world.