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Stakeholder consultation on seabed mining

Public consultation

In March 2014 the European Commission launched a consultation on seabed mining.

The consultation closed on 20 June 2014.

 

Why this consultation?

Observations

  • Rapid expansion in the capabilities of underwater technology
  • Concerns about a sustainable supply of raw materials for industry

Possible consequences

  • Existing extraction activities from seas and oceans, largely in shallow water, could increase
  • Mining activities in deeper water could begin

Objective of this consultation

This consultation aims to gather opinions concerning these developments in order to help the EU develop its position.

About seabed mining

Today commercial scale seabed mining operations are limited to shallow water.

  • Most of this concerns the extraction of aggregates – sand and gravel – for the construction industry and for nourishing beaches.
  • Other material extracted from shallow water down to about 500 metres depth includes tin, phosphates, iron ore and diamonds.

The technologies involved include dredging, vacuum pumps and Remotely Operated Vehicles.

Deep seabed mining has been arousing interest since the 1960s but no commercial mining activity has yet begun. However, in the last decade interest has increased. Operations would be controlled from a floating platform at the sea surface and target one of four broad classes of deposits:

  • polymetallic nodules;
  • polymetallic sulphides;
  • cobalt-rich crusts
  • rare earth element-rich deep-sea sediments

The regulations governing such activities depend on whether they take place inside or outside the jurisdictional waters of a sovereign state.

According to the UN Law of the Sea a country enjoys exclusive sovereign rights to explore its continental shelf and exploit the natural resources, including mineral resources from it. Mining activities in this area are subject to the country's internal legislation. For EU countries, this legislation may include obligations agreed at EU level, such as the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

Deep-sea mining operations can also be carried out in the international seabed (the "Area” which is the sea-bed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction [article 1 UNCLOS]), for which a licence needs to be obtained from the International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental body established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with the mandate to organise and control activities of the Area, particularly with a view to administering the resources of the Area, to regulate seabed mining and to ensure the protection of the marine environment in the Area in relation to such activities.

Reference documents

More information can be found on the following pages:

Contact details

Responsible service
European Commission, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Unit C1, Maritime policy Atlantic, outermost regions and Arctic

E-mail
MARE-C1-CONSULTATION@ec.europa.eu

Postal address
European Commission
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Unit C1, Maritime policy Atlantic, outermost regions and Arctic
B-1049 Brussels
Belgium

Number of responses received to this consultation

There were 206 replies with a representative selection of private bodies, public authorities, researchers and replies. Another 515 respondents, rather than replying to the questions, sent individual e-mails.

View the contributions

These replies are complete. Other than removal of individual names to protect personal privacy, they have not been edited at all. The services of the European Commission are preparing a summary of the replies.

Results of consultation and next steps

The Commission services will publish a complete set of replies to the consultation as well as an analysis of them. The names and contact details of respondents, whether replying individually, or on behalf of an organisation, will not be divulged.

Protection of personal data

Specific privacy statement pdf - 82 KB [82 KB]