The UK government has announced its support for a moratorium on the granting of exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects. This means the UK will not sponsor or support the issuing of any such licences until sufficient scientific evidence is available to assess the potential impacts of deep sea mining on marine ecosystems.
Whilst deep sea mining is not currently undertaken in international waters, we recognise the growing pressure to extract deep-sea resources and are concerned about the potential impacts of mining activities on the fragile marine environment. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is the organisation through which State Parties (to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), including the UK, organise and control all mineral-resources related activities on the deep seabed for the benefit of humankind as a whole. The ISA has the mandate to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep seabed related activities.
The UK is an international advocate for the highest possible environmental standards, and so, on Monday 30 October, we have announced our support for a moratorium on the granting of exploitation licenses for deep sea mining projects by the ISA. This is a precautionary approach. This means that we will not sponsor or support the issuing of any such licences for deep sea mining by the ISA unless and until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep sea ecosystems.
To support this, we also announced that the UK is committed to developing a new multi-disciplinary UK deep sea mining environmental expert network to champion UK expertise in environmental sciences, This network will help to fill gaps in our knowledge in order to provide sufficient scientific evidence to fully understand the potential environmental impacts of deep sea mining and share these internationally. This will build on the independent evidence review on deep sea mining carried out by independent experts following a government commission in 2022.
The UK has been pressing for strong enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines to be developed by the ISA. We are clear these should be in place before any mining is considered. The UK is committed to the multilateral system, which includes the ISA, and we are remain committed to working with our partners at the ISA to ensure that the development of Regulations and management of this potential new industry is fully informed in a careful, considered way, and led by the science.
This announcement makes it clear that the UK recognises the impacts of deep sea mining are not fully understood and our position is to proactively support research, using UK scientific expertise to improve international understanding and enable effective regulation. The UK will continue our support for exploration under the ISA, which is critical in developing the environmental baseline and in supporting the science required to understand the potential environmental effects of deep sea mining.
This announcement further demonstrates the UK’s commitment towards ocean conservation and protection.