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Opposition in Vancouver (Canada) to Deep-Sea Mining in Nauru

A proposal to mine the deep sea has prompted rejection from environmental groups and corporations alike who fear catastrophic levels of carbon could be released from the subsoil.


The Republic of Nauru, a microstate in the Pacific Ocean, is no stranger to the extractive industry. Starting from the early 20th century, the island was mined for phosphate by several foreign countries with the promise of compensation for any environmental damage [1]. Now not only have the reserves been depleted, and the promised environmental restoration forgotten, but the loss of plant life has prevented the formation of rain clouds, which has led to droughts on the island [1]. The sacrificing of land and resources to attract foreign investment led to a decimation of future avenues of industrialization and sustainable growth, leaving Nauru having to resort to looking for other sources of income. They first looked to offshore banking, though that option was no longer feasible after being blacklisted by the United States for laundering money for the Russian mafia and al-Qaida [1]. The country’s most recent venture consists of housing Australia’s asylum seekers, which provides half of the state’s revenue and perpetuates neo-colonial ties [1]. With developing countries facing uncertainty in economic conditions, and island states such as Nauru being vulnerable to rising sea levels, there is a salient need to find new sources of income. This brings us to the “Green Transition”.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Opposition in Vancouver (Canada) to Deep-Sea Mining in Nauru
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Lithium
Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

While Belgian Dredging Environmental and Marine Engineering (DEME) and UK Seabed Resources (subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) are involved interested in deep-sea mining, this particular conflict is based on Canada’s The Metal Company and its subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI) [1]. The corporation has received a pilot license to extract minerals from the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean, in an area of 1.2 million km2 [13]. The company estimates that the potential mining reserves can easily number in the hundreds of millions of tonnes, and plans on extracting 1.3 million metric tons of polymetallic nodules annually [13], [14].

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Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:26/06/2021
Company names or state enterprises:The Metals Company (TMC) from Canada
Relevant government actors:The Republic of Nauru
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Seabed Authority (ISA) from Jamaica
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sustainable Ocean Alliance (
Deep Sea Defenders (
Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (
Oceans North (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Activists tend to promote either lowering consuption, or the use of current mineral stocks on land. Companies such as Google, BMW, Volvo Group, and Samsung have agreed that using reserves on land should be prioritized until further research can be done.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The process is ongoing, and no international ban or moratorium has been announced by the ISA
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[5] “UNCLOS - Part XI, Section 2,” 1982.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

On the phosphate exploitation. "The Physical Destruction of Nauru: An Example of Weak Sustainability". By John M. Gowdy and Carl N. McDaniel. Land Economics

Vol. 75, No. 2 (May, 1999), pp. 333-338 (6 pages)

Published By: University of Wisconsin Press

[1] J. Watts, “Race to the bottom: the disastrous, blindfolded rush to mine the deep sea,” The Guardian, Sep. 27, 2021.
[click to view]

[2] “Projection total lithium demand globally 2030,” Statista, Mar. 2022.
[click to view]

[3] P. Stevens, “A coming copper shortage could derail the energy transition, report finds,” CNBC, Jul. 14, 2022
[click to view]

[4] H. Reid, “Pacific island of Nauru sets two-year deadline for U.N. deep-sea mining rules,” Reuters, Jun. 29, 2021.
[click to view]

[6] K. McVeigh, “Seabed regulator accused of deciding deep sea’s future ‘behind closed doors,’” The Guardian, Apr. 01, 2022.
[click to view]

[7] L. Cecco, “Leaked video footage of ocean pollution shines light on deep-sea mining,” The Guardian, Feb. 06, 2023.
[click to view]

[8] S. H. D. Haddock and C. A. Choy, “Opinion | Treasure and Turmoil in the Deep Sea,” The New York Times, Aug. 14, 2020.
[click to view]

[9] K. McVeigh, “Bottom trawling releases as much carbon as air travel, landmark study finds,” The Guardian, Mar. 17, 2021.
[click to view]

[10] Reuters, “Google, BMW, AB Volvo, Samsung back environmental call for pause on deep-sea mining,” Reuters, Mar. 31, 2021.
[click to view]

[11] CBC News, “Vancouver protesters call on global ocean conservation conference to ban deep-sea mining | CBC News,” CBC, Feb. 05, 2023.
[click to view]

[12] R. Baker, “Canada declares moratorium on deep-sea mining at global ocean conservation summit,” Canada’s National Observer, Feb. 09, 2023.
[click to view]

[13] T. M. TMC, “The Metals Company acquires third seabed contract area to explore for polymetallic nodules,” The Metals Company, Apr. 07, 2020.
[click to view]

[14] E. C. Alberts, “Regulator approves first deep-sea mining test, surprising observers,” Mongabay Environmental News, Sep. 16, 2022.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Toronto Star. Why has a Canadian company partnered with the tiny island of Nauru to fast-track deep-sea mining? A leaked video of ocean pollution during a trial by The Metals Company (TMC) has renewed calls for a ban on deep-sea mining. Joanna Chiu, Feb. 20, 2023
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Christian David Castaño Bonilla
Last update19/03/2023
Conflict ID:6289
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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