After years of passive and silent participation, Italy decided on 3 May to activate its participation in the International Seabed Authority (ISA), and to organise a high-level meeting between ISA Secretary General Michael Lodge, Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, and Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Giorgio Silli . The purpose of the visit was to verify the possibility of extending the area in which ISA plans to mine the Mediterranean seabed (Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Libya ) and the deployment of submarine sensors for military defence systems to the Italian seas as well.
The teams in the field are very clear: on the one hand, large multinational companies and governments of countries with dictatorial governments such as Russia and China, who want ISA, and on the other hand, environmentalists from all over the world, who consider Michael Lodge and his organisation a dangerous wound in the fabric of the United Nations, which considers ISA as its own agency, even though it is a profit-making company whose activities are rather controversial . To take a stand in favour of this organisation, therefore, is to oppose head-on years of study and political activity by ecologists all over the world, and by the governments of the countries in the oceanic areas where the first trials were carried out, with not particularly encouraging results .
The fact, in the Italian press, has gone unnoticed, which is very serious. ISA’s projects are, all over the world, at the centre of a desperate struggle, by environmental organisations, to have them banned and the exploitation consortia, most of them Russian and Canadian, which already hold an exploitation licence (on the legality of which there are various opinions and legal disputes are underway), disbanded . The reasons are easy to imagine: apart from the annoyance one feels imagining that, on the seabed, just a few kilometres from our coasts, the Russians are placing probes to monitor naval traffic and, even more seriously, the movements of fish, the total destruction of the seabed ecosystem is planned here – a nonsense that could have tragic consequences even in the very short term .
The fact is even more disconcerting when one observes that the three members of the Italian government who entered into negotiations with Michael Lodge are the people in charge of environmental policy and civil protection – whose mandate, in a normal country, should be to put the brakes on the ISA project, not to accelerate it or to make Italy part of such an energy and industrial policy choice. But the fact is that, in the right-wing government headed by Giorgia Meloni, the Ministry for Civil Protection has the mandate to defend the hydrogeological balance and the marine ecosystem , and the Minister of Ecology is also responsible for energy supply and nuclear power plants .
The people who decide Italy’s participation in the exploitation of the seabed are important personalities, each with their own history behind them. Nello Musumeci (Forza Italia), for example, the former president of the Sicilian region, is a historian of fascism, which he has enthusiastically defended through many publications , but he is also the man who has fought most vigorously to prevent the opening of nuclear waste storage depots in Sicily . When he was a Member of the European Parliament, he spoke in favour of one of ISA’s projects, namely satellite monitoring (from the sky and from the depths of the sea) of marine traffic , but also in defence of the marine ecosystem . In theory, he should be fiercely opposed to the mining exploitation of the Mediterranean seabed.
Gilberto Pichetto Fratin (Forza Italia), who for many years held positions in the Piedmont region or in the Senate relating to the management of the state budget, and only in February 2021, when he was appointed deputy minister for economic development, began to deal with polluting companies and electric cars, and was opposed to the proposals of environmentalists on land management and car traffic . His appointment as Minister of the Environment is tantamount to the proverbial fox in the henhouse, but it reflects the more general position of much of Italy’s conservative political world – hence that of Giorgia Meloni’s government, which is in favour of allowing and encouraging oil drilling in front of Italy’s tourist coastlines .
Giorgio Silli (Forza Italia, later to follow Toti with the dissidents) is a textile-chemical entrepreneur (his family owns a factory that has been dyeing textiles since the 18th century ), also with an open-minded stance in favour of nuclear energy, appreciates the energy policy of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are preparing for an oil-free world , but at the same time he is an enthusiastic advocate of the positive exploitation, especially for tourism purposes, of the seabed, and argues loudly that excavations and constructions on the seabed are ecologically acceptable .
Existing ISA projects for the exploitation of the Mediterranean seabed
One shudders with concern, and even more so with the fact that such a decision has been taken without any parliamentary debate, and that the first steps have been taken to make it operational. In keeping with the unfortunate tradition of the last quarter of a century, major international policy decisions are often taken without anyone not only being able to question them, but no longer even knowing that they were taken.
 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/21/row-erupts-over-deep-sea-mining-as-world-races-to-finalise-vital-regulations ; https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-04-19/gold-rush-in-the-deep-sea-raises-questions-about-international-seabed-authority ; https://www.passblue.com/2021/11/08/the-obscure-organization-powering-a-race-to-mine-the-bottom-of-the-seas/ ; https://ocean.economist.com/governance/articles/international-seabed-authority-under-pressure-over-deep-sea-mining-impacts ; https://savethehighseas.org/isa-tracker/2022/07/19/the-problem-with-the-isa-protecting-the-deep/ ; https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/58793/greenpeace-activists-interrupt-investors-conference-stop-deep-sea-mining/ ; https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/19/us/politics/seabed-mining-metals-united-nations.html
 Frank Schätzing, ‘Der Schwarm‘, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Köln 2004
 https://www.regione.sicilia.it/la-regione-informa/nucleare-regione-ribadisce-no-siti-stoccaggio-nell-isola ; https://gds.it/articoli/politica/2021/01/06/scorie-nucleari-musumeci-impensabili-quattro-siti-in-sicilia-ee02f326-0ba1-4841-ba8c-d1b0f4dbce40/