Crunch talks in Jamaica to determine future of drive to extract critical minerals from ocean depths
France and Germany are leading a fightback against plans to allow large-scale commercial mining in the deep seas, warning that a China-supported push to harvest battery metals from the seabed could do lasting harm.
Representatives of 168 member states of the International Seabed Authority will gather on Monday for a marathon, three-week negotiation on whether to lay down the first operating guidelines for the nascent industry.
The talks hosted by the obscure intergovernmental body, based in Jamaica, could open a rush to develop swaths of ocean floor until now given special protection as “the common heritage of mankind”. Countries including South Korea, Russia and Norway, along with China, favour pushing ahead.
The dilemmas over lifting restrictions, debated since the 1960s, have taken on added urgency because of fears that shortages of battery metals like copper and cobalt could scupper electrification plans around the world.
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