PACIFIC CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS today published a legal opinion on the application of the precautionary principle to deep sea mining in the Pacific Region.
Given the considerable risks and uncertainties surrounding the environmental impacts of mining activities, the advice says that “the correct interpretation of the precautionary principle leads to only one plausible result - a moratorium on deep sea bed mining.”
This legal opinion comes at a time when Pacific Islands Forum leaders are meeting in the Cook Islands.
“It is clear that we do not know what the impacts of seabed mining will be on our vitally important ocean environment and international law makes clear our responsibility to proceed with unprecedented caution in this area," an NGO spokeswoman said.
In a 10-page legal opinion, the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide concludes that the application of the precautionary principle supports a moratorium on seabed mining until the risks of harm to the marine environment and coastal people are better known and understood.
The precautionary principle dictates taking a cautious approach in matters that affect the environment when there is scientific uncertainty about the negative impacts.
The principle is widely used in international environmental law and has been applied in the courts in areas such as climate change, hazardous waste, fisheries and sustainable development.
"There is a clear obligation on all States to widely apply the principle," says Effrey Dademo, program manager for ACT NOW! In Papua New Guinea.
“This includes the need for an open, informed and democratic process involving all potentially affected parties and this is something that has just not happened prior to the introduction of experimental seabed mining.”
ELAW is a worldwide network of more than 300 advocates working in 70 countries who promote environmental protection through law and science in order to promote justice for their communities