More than 30 countries including France, Spain, Singapore and Brazil fiercely oppose deep-sea mining, warning of irreversible damage to one of the world’s few remaining pristine areas. But they may not be able to overcome the wishes of the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru. The island country is sponsoring a bid by The Metals Co., a Canadian mining concern, to extract nickel, manganese and cobalt from one of the most remote parts of the Pacific Ocean, a space between Hawaii and Mexico called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
The opposing forces are facing off in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, where an obscure U.N. agency, the International Seabed Authority, last week began deliberations that could upend the electric car, battery and mining industries, along with the economies of several nations. On a live webcast, the ISA is debating the rules governing who can mine in the open sea—including in the CCZ, which may hold the richest store of critical metals on the planet. The Metals Co. is one of two companies that have conducted undersea trials in the CCZ, and rivals from several countries are just behind them, including Chinese players seeking to get in on the ocean wealth.