Brussels - Seas At Risk, in partnership with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, hosted a multi-stakeholder event to explore the present status and future of deep sea mining.

Some 70 participants from industry, government, European institutions, NGOs and the scientific community came together for a lively debate around the need for deep sea mining, the current technological and regulatory state of play, and the knowledge gaps that prevent us from understanding the full potential impacts of this industry.

In the morning, a panel of experts considered the need for deep sea mining and the application of the ‘precautionary principle’. The sector was considered in the context of commitments to a circular economy, as well as projected future global demand for raw materials. In the afternoon, a second panel outlined what we already know and research under way about the sector’s potential environmental impacts. Woven into this discussion, the experts considered the future prospects for commercial exploitation and the regulations for exploitations being put in place by the International Seabed Authority. The audience participated actively throughout the day, with open moderated dialogue between stage and floor.

The event signifies the highest level meeting of stakeholders at the EU level yet on the topic of deep sea mining, confirming the interest of a broad cross-section of stakeholders in connecting around this topic and exposing the gaps in knowledge that need to be bridged. It further demonstrated the speed at which technology and industry are progressing towards actual mining activities, even while the International Seabed Authority is in the process of developing exploitation regulations.

While views differed on whether deep sea mining is inevitable (in light of the increasing demand for materials driven by global growth), there was some consensus around the fact that despite recent strides, we do not yet know enough about the ways in which deep sea environments function. All agreed that the EU has a significant role in facilitating the further research needed. On the regulation side, most agreed the need for a stringent application of the precautionary and ‘polluter pays’ principles and, all accepted that the ISA was the correct body to develop a codified international regulatory framework, with EU involvement. There were however concerns about the enforcement of the regulatory framework, and the level of engagement of ISA member states in the existing processes.

Further information is available at the links below