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Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green signs bill banning seabed mining in state waters

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Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green on Monday signed a state Senate bill prohibiting seabed mining in state waters – less than two weeks after 12 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to support a precautionary pause or moratorium on the new industry.

“This outlaws seabed mining and state marine waters due to environmental risks and constitutional rights to have a clean and healthy environment,” Gov. Green said of Senate Bill 2575. “… I think the Legislature decided to get out ahead of this and for that, I’m forever grateful.”

Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green signed several bills into law on July 8, including one banning seabed mining in state waters. Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor

Seabed mining has made headlines in recent weeks: In addition to House Democrats’ letter to President Biden, The New York Times on July 4 published a report detailing “a nasty fight” within the International Seabed Authority, an entity controlling mining in international waters worldwide.

Twenty-seven countries are now in support of a moratorium or precautionary pause on seabed mining for metals used in electric vehicles. But contractors – like the Canada-based mining company The Metals Company – want to extract metals from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean as soon as 2026, according to The New York Times.


One of The Metals Company’s contract areas — a 46,000-square-mile section of the Pacific — would generate an estimated $31 billion in net earnings over 25 years of mining, The New York Times reported, noting The Metals Company “claims that its contract areas hold enough nickel, cobalt and manganese to supply all of the needs for car battery metals in the United States.”

Democratic state senator and majority whip Lorraine R. Inouye (District 1 – the Big Island) took over the podium following Green’s remarks to make an apparently impromptu statement on the seabed mining ban.

“As Governor did say, it aims to protect Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystems by prohibiting seabed mining in state waters due to its high risk to the environment and biodiversity,” Sen. Inouye said. “But it also emphasizes the cultural and spiritual importance of the deep ocean to Native Hawaiians and safeguards existing ocean-dependent industries, like fishing and tourism.


“More importantly, this bill underscores a precautionary approach to avoid unknown harms, ensuring we preserve Hawai‘i’s rich marine environments for our children, and prosperity,” she continued.

Native Hawaiian elder and Chair of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Solomon Pili Kaho’ohalahala praised the ban: “The deep sea is our ʻohana, and seabed mining has no place in Hawaiian waters or our Moananuiākea, the great Pacific Ocean.”

Democratic state Rep. Nicole Lowen (District 7 – the Big Island) co-introduced analogous legislation to the state Senate’s seabed mining ban and co-chaired the SB2575 conference committee.


“Passage of this legislation not only protects Hawai‘i state waters but also sends an important message to the rest of the world about the dangers of seabed mining,” she said.

In 2023, the Blue Climate Initiative issued a petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining, drawing signatures from Indigenous communities from throughout the Pacific and ocean scientists. Members of 51 countries and 72 Indigenous groups have been counted to date.

Other bills signed into law by Green on Monday included Senate Bill 3364, creating action plans for tourism management; House Bill 2248, appropriating to develop a beach management plan for the North Shore of O‘ahu; House Bill 2475, relating to unpermitted commercial ocean activity; and others.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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