18 June 2013
SUVA, Fiji — The Pacific must not be allowed to become a testing ground for deep sea mining and regional governments must stop issuing licences immediately.
Pacific Conference of Churches Treaties Adviser Murray Isimeli said yesterday the region could not afford damage to the environment from testing.
“There is no evidence on what effect testing or mining will have so we would caution against doing anything until there is substantial proof of the effects of disturbing the sea bed,” Mr Isimeli said.
“The closest (evidence we have) is the experience of land based mining. The evidence is clear – our people have paid a high price, both socially and economically despite the best intentions of our governments. Mining revenues have not justified the associated costs of displacement, dislocation (often accompanied by state and industry violence), damage to livelihoods and environmental degradation.”
His comments came after a regional summit on deep sea mining organized by SOPAC (South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission) in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Isimeli said the PCC member churches were mindful of the sovereign right of each state to exercise its political and economic self-determination on issues of national interest but Pacific governments needed to rethink paths to achieving sustainable development.
“We recommend – in line with the PCC General Assembly resolution in Honiara in March – that, in the absence of clear scientific evidence, that our respective national governments err on the side of caution and call for a stop to the issuance of further seabed mining licenses,” Isimeli said.
He told regional leaders at the summit that the Pacific Ocean was a central part of the lives of close to seven million people and the decision by one government in regards to exploration or mining could affect the lives of millions of others.
“The risks and uncertainties of seabed mining are too great to allow mining activities to proceed with the expectation that the damage can be reversed,” Isimeli said.
“The leading scientific thinking, at present, states that we need to adopt a precautionary approach and institute a moratorium on seabed mining activities.
“This precautionary principle is backed by international law.”
He also warned governments and their representatives about liberally using the Bible to support mining after speakers at the Vanuatu spoke of underwater minerals as divine blessings.
“The Church does not claim a monopoly on theology; we are all theologians in our own right,” Mr Isimeli said.
“However, if governments, civil society and other stakeholders to engage in a gainful and meaningful discussion on theology and on interpretations of the Bible and its messages to us as stewards of His perfect creation – stewards of His people, our communities, and stewards of the environment, PCC will be happy to oblige.
“In fact, PCC calls on our governments and inter-governmental organisations to make available appropriate space to hear and consider the voices of the Church and other civil society organisations in their discussions on deep sea mining.”