Wastewater into the Pacific exposes industry greenwash - Greenpeace

By Hannah Bodger-Kearns

Leaked undercover footage of wastewater pouring into the Pacific Ocean during deep sea mining tests exposes industry greenwash and shows how damaging sea mining can be to ocean health, Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner James Hita says.

“Waiho papa moana. Leave the seabed alone.” 

He says the recent footage shows wastewater being dumped by Canadian miner The Metals Company (TMC) at the ocean surface, with unknown toxicity and ecological impacts.

Hita says the waste, comprising rock, debris and sediment, has the potential to smother and poison ocean life.

“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.”

Global ban urgent

The 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. One of the biggest vessels of its type in the world, the ship planned to mine 3,600 tonnes of polymetallic nodules from the seafloor in a trial that could pave the way for full-scale commercial mining. 

Hita says the incident has not been publicly reported by the company or the ISA, the body charged with regulating deep-sea mining.

Hita says 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, can 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,

Hita and Greenpeace allies confronted the Hidden Gem in November last year off the coast of Manzanillo, México as it returned to port from the Pacific.