Deep Sea Mining

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

To ask Her Majesty's Government what position they took on motion 69 at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress relating to the protection of deep-ocean ecosystems, biodiversity, and a moratorium on seabed mining; and for what reason they adopted that position.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the UK abstained from voting on the motion for a moratorium on deep-sea mining because it did not fully align with UK policy.

However, there is no deep-sea mining currently happening in areas beyond national jurisdictions, there are no exploitation licences for deep-sea mining, and no exploitation regulations have yet been agreed. In addition, the UK has committed not to sponsor or support the issuing of any exploitation licences for deep-sea mining projects unless and until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep-sea ecosystems and strong and enforceable environmental regulations and standards have been developed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and are in place.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it is the role of the ISA to regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole. In so doing, the ISA has the duty to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed activities.

The UK has a strong and respected voice in these international negotiations and the UK position emphasises the need to ensure that the highest possible environmental standards are met in the development of this new industry. We judge that engaging fully with these negotiations is the most effective way for the UK to work with others so that no deep-sea mining takes place in the absence of strong and enforceable environmental regulations and standards. This includes requiring that Regional Environmental Management Plans are adopted for each region before any exploitation licence can even be considered, as well as the adoption of strong and enforceable environmental Standards and Guidelines.

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