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Deepsea mining eyed in American Samoa

Updated: May 6


By Mar-Vic Cagurangan


Sitting on a gold mine, American Samoa is being eyed as a potential supplier of much-sought-after minerals, promising to generate hi-tech jobs and supplement the territory’s fishing economy.

Amid growing concerns about deep-sea mining in the Pacific island region, the International Seabed Authority is scheduled in July to discuss a license application filed by the American Samoa Economic Development Council.

John Wasko

In November last year, ASEDC entered into a memorandum of understanding with the California-based Impossible Metals Inc. to collaborate on deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules from American Samoa’s waters and process them into battery-grade metals.

The MOU between ASEDC and Impossible Metals will be “a basis for commencing negotiations for one or more definitive agreements.”

Citing U.S. Geological Survey research, John Wasko, executive director of ASEDC, estimated 10 billion tons of subsea electric vehicle critical minerals lying on the ocean floor within American Samoa's exclusive economic zone.


The discovery of polymetallic nodules in the Pacific waters has triggered a race to the sea floor as rich countries dig for underwater minerals needed for the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

“EEZ seabed resources significantly change the geopolitical calculus of Pacific nations’ relationship to northern hemisphere industrial and military nations. We have what they want and need,” Wasko said.

ASEDC is a nonprofit organization that explores local business opportunities in American Samoa.

“Joint U.S. military commands are assessing [the possibility of] making American Samoa the Asia Pacific hub for critical mineral receiving and refining,” Wasko said.


According to ASEDC’s license application filed with ISA “Verifiable research estimates 80 billion dry tons of seabed nodule critical minerals within 1,000 miles radius of American Samoa.”

The proposed mining would employ a “minimally invasive” process, such as the application of an autonomous robotic collection system, which uses “computer vision, artificial intelligence and manipulators to selectively harvest nodules from the seabed,” according to the MOU.

Impossible Metals intends to use the port infrastructure in Pago Pago and hire local residents for initial exploration and survey work. The company will seek to lease the outer continental shelf and submit a proposal to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“Critical minerals are essential to U.S. national security. A dual-purpose military and commercial installation would assure high-paying, high-tech jobs in the territory,” Wasko said.  “Hopefully, the American Samoa government will cooperate with the U.S. military and private sector to build a second anchor industry and create local jobs."

In January this year, ASEDC teamed up with Critical Minerals Ventures, LLC, a Colorado-based consulting firm, to “oversee and facilitate the selection of partnerships between the American Samoa mining operations and the end-users.”

"Under the Biden Administration Inflation Reduction Act bold restriction will require the new sourcing of critical minerals for car and battery manufacturers with operations in North America, The EU, South Korea, and Japan,” Wasco said in a press release on Jan. 16.

World economists predict that countries that control critical minerals will govern the political economy of electrification and decarbonization.

“Asia Pacific island nations can no longer be recognized as disparate and isolated small land masses,” ASEDC's application states. “The collective Asia Pacific nation exclusive economic zones comprise hundreds of thousands of square miles rich with critical minerals essential to a carbon pollution-free, environmentally sustainable modern society.”

Deep-sea mining, however, is causing friction in the Pacific island region, where much of deep-sea mining extraction is predicted to play out.

ISA, an independent governing body created by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, has so far issued 31 permits to 22 contractors for deep-sea mining exploration.

But most Pacific island states dependent on blue economy sectors such as fishing, tourism and renewable energy, are concerned about the consequences of deep-sea mining in the region.

At the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., launched an Alliance of Countries Calling for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium. Fiji, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia were among the first nations to sign up.


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