Defra is investigating the risks and environmental effects of deep sea mining through a cross Government working group including Cefas, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The working group is supported by input from the National Oceanography Centre, Natural History Museum and British Geological Survey who are involved in a number of ongoing academic projects considering the impacts of deep sea mining. In addition, FCO and Defra commissioned a workshop in February 2019 which brought together UK universities, industry and consultancies involved in the assessment of deep sea mining activities, to share information, progress and research findings. The outputs of these discussions are being used to inform the UK’s input into the development of regulations, standards and guidelines at the International Seabed Authority.
The UK is pushing for transparent, science-based and environmentally sound regulation of seabed mining by the International Seabed Authority to ensure effective protections of deep sea habitats and biodiversity while allowing UK businesses to realise the commercial opportunities.
We are using our influence to secure the adoption of a mining code in 2020 that provides for robust and accountable oversight of mining activity. This includes (i) enshrining the precautionary principle and an ecosystem approach in the mining code; (ii) ensuring that in addition to the core regulations, effective and binding standards and guidelines to ensure environmentally sound mining have been adopted before exploitation licences are granted, and that these reflect the different environmental and other features of the different mineral deposits; (iii) ensuring that Regional Environmental Management Plans (REMPs) with robust environmental objectives are established before exploitation licences can be granted and that there is a clear regulatory link between the REMPs and exploitation licences; and (iv) allowing for the suspension of mining activities when operators fail to adhere to environmental safeguards or where new evidence of risk of serious harm arises.