This is about how tiny Singapore, a nation no larger than Tonga is about to enclose the Pacific with rules of mining in the Deep Seabed (DSM). Although this does not apply to areas within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island Nations, the Deep Seabed Mining Bill, when embedded in agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, would threaten the regional biodiversity that Pacific Island Countries share.
Right now, what this new DSM bill does is it provides Keppel Corporation and Lockheed Martin, for example, to lead the deep seabed exploration launch in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, 500 miles south of Hawaii.
According to a report by Channel News Asia on the Singapore “Deep Seabed Mining Bill,”
“Singapore companies are allowed to enter the emerging deep seabed mining industry and capitalise on growing opportunities, said Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang in Parliament on Thursday.
During a second reading of the Bill, Mr Lim said it aims to establish a licensing regime to regulate the exploration for, and extraction of deep seabed resources by companies sponsored by Singapore.”
In Papua New Guinea, Nautilus’s Solwara 1, has faced massive opposition by ecological , customary and indigenous rights groups, that spurred a cross-Oceania coalition of civil society organizations challenging this technology on all fronts. Citing both Free Prior and Informed Consent and the Precautionary Principle, there has been yet no independent comprehensive Environmental Impact Report on DSM, while many people have already testified on how this industry will and has already negatively impacted the lives and livelihoods of Pacific peoples.
With Singapore’s inclusion of Seabed Mining, it may not sound like much for those who think about Seabed Mining as something that takes place within the EEZ of countries. Singapore is a different region altogether, however, a tip off the Malay Peninusla, and the gateway to the Indian Ocean.
The following is a direct quote from the signed 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic and Economic Partnership that Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei signed, and the agreement calls for an expansion on the definition of territory to include:
“…with respect to Singapore, its land territory, internal waters and territorial sea as well as and any maritime area situated beyond the territorial sea which has been or might in future be designated under its domestic law, in accordance with international law, as an area within which Singapore may exercise sovereign rights or jurisdiction with regard to the sea,seabed, the subsoil and the natural resources.”
This change in the definition of “territory” by Singapore seeks to expand their claim to territory and expand their sovereign right for deep sea bed mining. Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have filed a amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) arguing for strong environmental safeguards from this kind of creeping legislation and the kind of liberalizing changes that are being discussed in the Convention.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has since evolved into a 12-country partnership led by the US, and is the trade arm of what Obama announced in 2011 as part of the Pacific Pivot, a rebalance of military and trade in the Pacific.
Countries supporting the TPP are challenging regulations against deep-sea mining that have been protected by the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that was signed by 119 countries in 1982, of which the US signed but Congress has not yet ratified. These agreements erected complex regulations to control the circumstances of mining in the deep seabed area, one of the last and perhaps richest frontiers of mineral wealth and asset resources, as well as one of the most unknown in its fragility and biodiversity.
Singapore has already positioned itself as a center for deep seabed mining technology. For the heck of it, in a non-scientific, armchair approach towards investigative reporting, I explored Alibaba.com, an international trade website looking at the goods and services for sale in the area of sea dredging and was not surprised to find that the majority of non-Chinese dredging goods and services were found in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, countries that have already given support of the TPP.
Because many transnational mining companies are working out of Singapore, abiding by Singapore’s new territorial claims, the Pacific Islands which are enclosed by TPP member countries will be most impacted.