Several environmental groups have urged a moratorium on deep-sea mining ahead of an international meeting in Jamaica where members of the United Nations (UN) will debate the issue amid fears over the first-ever licence to harvest minerals from the ocean’s floor, The Hill reports.

Monaco joined the growing list of 20 countries that have called for the moratorium ahead of the UN’s International Seabed Authority’s (ISA) meeting expected to last nearly two weeks.

“Sea mining is one of the key environmental issues of our time, and this is because the deep seat is among the last pristine areas of our planet,” said Sofia Tsenikli from the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.

Companies like Samsung and BMW have promised to avoid using minerals mined from the deep sea, the Associated Press reported.

Clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines, are driving up demand for metals that mining companies say can be extracted from 600 feet below sea level.

Mining companies say harvesting minerals from the deep sea is cheaper and has less environmental impact than harvesting on land. Scientists warn deep-sea mining could “unleash noise, light and suffocating dust storms.”

The ISA has issued more than 30 exploration licenses, and China, which currently holds five, has the most of any country. Most exploration is happening in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone between Hawaii and Mexico.

ISA said all member countries have agreed that no mining will begin until an agreement is reached on regulations over environmental protections and economic exploitation. The authority said it’s still debating rules and regulations for a mining code but a company could apply for a mining licence at any time.


FILE PHOTO: A bowl of polymetallic nodules that are found scattered across the ocean floor, comprise copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron and rare earth elements that are key to making modern gadgets, at the National Institute of Ocean Technology in Chennai, India on October 10, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Annie Banerji