About this consultation

17 marec 2014 - 20 jún 2014
Policy areas
Maritime affairs and fisheries

Consultation outcome

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

Target group

All citizens and organisations.

Objective of the 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

This consultation aimed 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.

More information can be found on the following pages

Reference documents

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