Thank you to all those who contacted me about deep-sea mining.
The transition to clean energy will result in a significant increase in the demand for many minerals in the next few decades. This has led to increasing consideration of the potential that mineral resources on the deep seafloor could contribute to meeting this demand and ensuring security of supply. At the same time, we know mining in the deep sea will cause adverse impacts to the environment. An independent expert review commissioned by the Government and published in October 2022, for example, noted that deep-sea ecosystems are considered to be particularly sensitive to disturbance, with recovery not evident over decades in test areas and with bigger commercial-scale impacts expected to last centuries.
I therefore believe it is crucial that we balance the need to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging the use of sustainable energy sources for the development of electric batteries against the potential for ecological damage caused by the extraction of seabed minerals used in battery production.
I know that the Government has been asked a number of questions in the House of Commons on this issue in recent months. In response, it states that its policy is “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 enforceable environmental regulations, standards and guidelines have been developed by the ISA [International Seabed Authority] and are in place”. It further states that it is “fully engaged” in the ongoing negotiations at the ISA to agree deep-sea mining exploitation regulations.
I can assure you that I will continue to monitor developments on this issue closely and I hope the Government will give proper consideration to the vital concerns you raise as negotiations continue at the ISA.