The UK government has announced its support for measures designed to protect the world’s ocean and improve the conservation of marine biodiversity.
Ahead of International Seabed Authority (ISA) negotiations, and a month ahead of COP28, the UK government has announced its support for a moratorium on the granting of exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects – which involve the extraction of minerals such as precious metals, copper and cobalt – by the ISA.
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 impact of deep sea mining activities on marine ecosystems and strong, enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines have been developed and adopted by the ISA.
The UK is an international advocate for the highest possible environmental standards and has been pushing the ISA to develop strong and enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines on deep sea mining.
To support this, a new UK-based environmental science expert network on deep sea mining will be launched to gather scientific data and increase the effective use of the UK’s world-class research through cross-disciplinary learning. This will build on the independent evidence review on deep sea mining carried out by independent experts following a government commission in 2022.
The network will bring together the UK’s environmental science expertise to help fill the current evidence gaps on the environmental impact of deep sea mining and share internationally.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:
“The UK is a global leader when it comes to protecting the marine environment. That is why we will use our scientific expertise to fully understand the impact of deep sea mining on precious ecosystems; and in the meantime, we will not support or sponsor any exploitation licences.
“This work will go alongside our wider efforts to conserve and enhance precious marine habitats around the world.”
The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State (Development and Africa) said:
“The UK is an international advocate for the highest possible environmental standards and we will keep pushing for strong and enforceable regulations, standards and guidelines for deep-sea mining. Until we fully understand the impact of deep-sea mining on our marine ecosystems, it is right that we seek to protect them.”
Clare Brook, CEO of Blue Marine Foundation, said:
“Deep-sea mining threatens some of the rarest and most vulnerable ecosystems on Earth. Blue Marine is therefore delighted to see the UK supporting a moratorium on deep-sea mining, along with other leading economies such as Germany, France and Sweden.
“There are cheaper, cleaner and more secure ways of producing minerals as the world transitions to net zero without causing the catastrophic and permanent destruction of fragile ocean life.
“Blue Marine welcomes the Government’s proposal to convene a UK scientific expert group on deep-sea mining, which would underline the UK’s position as a leading voice in ocean conservation.”