Opposition to the global rush towards deep-sea mining of metallic nodules continues to grow, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying France now supports an international ban of such deep-sea mining, Kallanish reports.

Speaking in Egypt at the COP27 summit, Macron says France supports a complete ban on such mining of nodules containing nickel, cobalt, copper, and magnesium because of climate change concerns and potential oceanic impacts, even as a United Nations panel is drafting rules that could allow such mining as early as mid-2023, according to media reports. France will support continued exploration. His announcement clarifies France’s position, which had been unclear, according to observers.

France now joins Germany, Spain, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Chile, Panama, Palau, Fiji, and the Federated States of Micronesia that all support what has been called a “precautionary pause” or a moratorium on such mining because of the lack of scientific data about the threat that such mining poses to ocean ecosystems. Other countries including Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland have said they will not approve any mining contracts until sufficient environmental protections can be assured.

France’s call for a mining ban was opposed by nations that support ocean-floor mining including Norway, Poland, Canada, Singapore, and the Cook Islands, which is sponsoring a mining company in its waters. France’s announcement was hailed by eco-groups including the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation.

The Metals Company, a Canada-based company, has won approval from the International Seabed Authority to begin a pilot exploration programme in the Pacific Ocean. It is working with Nauru that led the push to adopt mining rules by mid-2023. Other companies are also interested in collecting such metal-rich nodules.

The ISA council with 36 nations including France must reach a consensus on adopting mining rules. The seabed agency represents 167 counties plus the European Union.