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Native Hawaiian leaders take a stand against the world’s ‘next gold rush

Published date: 15-Dec-2023

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An uproar over deep sea mining erupted Thursday — just as a ship that’s been looking for rare metals stops in Hawaii.

The company that owns the ship says it’s following international laws and working with scientists, but some Native Hawaiian leaders are taking a stand against it.

They say deep sea mining has been called the “next gold rush” of the planet and now it’s sparked new awareness of a movement called “A’ole Deep Sea Mining.”

A’ole is the Hawaiian word for no.

On Thursday morning, Native Hawaiian leaders and members of the the Polynesian Voyaging Society, including Nainoa Thompson and Archie Kalepa, issued a call to action against companies extracting minerals from the deep sea floor in the Pacific Ocean.

“I speak to the powers that engage in deep sea mining, ‘You do not have our permission,’” said Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong, a Native Hawaiian cultural leader.

“The problem with the deep sea mining is another massive layer of insult, damage and hurt to the ocean which is every time we hurt the ocean we hurt ourselves,” added Nainoa Thompson, president of Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Thursday’s event was put to together quickly — after deep sea mining ship, The Hidden Gem, could be seen from shore. The Metals Company, which is headquartered in Canada, is working with the ship that’s owned and operated by AllSeas in the Netherlands.

A spokesman says it’s doing research and came to Hawaiian waters for a crew change.

“They have machines that are ten times the size of this tent with grading and collecting arms that absolutely dredges up the ocean,” said Soloman Kahoohalahala, native Hawaiian elder of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Advisory Council.

“This isn’t just about picking up some rocks from the bottom ocean, this is about our spiritual connections to the oceans,” added Brittany Kamai, campaign organizer of Aole Deep Sea Mining.

The Metals Company is seeking international regulatory approval to to start commercial mining in 2025 in an area called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone between Hawaii and Mexico.

It’s an area larger than the continental U.S.

“The sediment is discharged through the diffusers. The diffusers are used to slow down the flow of sediment,” said a marketing video for The Metals Company.

“These nodules contain high grades of nickel, copper, and cobalt and manganese and they are the base imports for all the infrastructure that we depend on,” Gerard Barron, CEO of The Metals Company told Hawaii News Now.

Barron says the company hopes to harvest about 125,000 tons of nickel and 90,000 of copper.

HNN asked if the process involves blasting or sucking under the ocean.

“What it involves is blasting a jet of water to the nodule to lift it up,” said Barron. “In this part of the ocean floor, there isn’t much to impact to begin with.”

He added, “There’s a lot of extreme activists who like to suggest about the potential impacts.” Last month, there was a clash between Greenpeace and those on board The Metal Company’s research vessel, MC Coco.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case introduced legislation earlier this year calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining until the impacts can be better understood.