The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien T.D., and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan T.D., have welcomed decision by Government for Ireland to join calls for a “precautionary pause” of deep-sea mining on the international seabed. A precautionary pause envisages no deep-sea mining taking place until such time as a robust regulatory framework is in place to protect the marine environment and the scientific knowledge base is sufficient to allow for informed decision-making.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea established the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to regulate the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources of the international seabed, which falls outside any national jurisdiction. To date the ISA has only authorised exploration activities but there have been recent efforts by some states and mining companies to accelerate moves towards an exploitation phase, notwithstanding the fact that negotiations on a mining code, including environmental regulations, have yet to be concluded, and significant scientific knowledge gaps persist.
Welcoming the decision by Government, the Tánaiste said:
Ireland today joins a growing chorus of countries, scientists, civil society organisations and private companies calling for a precautionary pause of deep-sea mining. The international community has a responsibility to protect the marine environment, which is under greater pressure than ever.
Minister O’Brien said: “The recently agreed Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, as well as the UN Agreement on Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), were major steps forward for international ocean governance. It is important that we focus on delivering the ambitious objectives of those frameworks, and build on the progress already made in protecting our marine environment.
Minister of State Noonan commented: “There remain major scientific knowledge gaps on deep-sea ecosystems and the potential impacts of deep-sea mining. The precautionary principle and the best available science must be at the heart of the governance of the international seabed.
- Ireland is a member of the ISA, which is based in Kingston, and will participate at its forthcoming meetings, commencing on 10 July.
- At its meeting today, the Government also decided to endorse a political declaration “Calling for a Partnership for the Deep Sea” which, amongst other things, takes the position that mining activities in the international seabed should not be allowed to commence before adequate rules, regulations and procedures are in place and that a better understanding of the nature and extent of cumulative environmental impacts and how to manage them must be developed. The declaration was initially issued in March 2023 on behalf of 13 countries, and since then it has been endorsed by a number of additional states.
- The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, agreed in December 2022, sets out global targets to be achieved by 2030 and beyond to safeguard and sustainably use biodiversity. This includes a target to protect 30% of oceans by 2030.
- The BBNJ Agreement was concluded in March 2023 and formally adopted in June 2023. It is a multilateral, legally binding treaty which will provide a framework for enhanced action on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, including through the creation of a global network of High Seas marine protected areas.
- The Government’s Policy Statement on Mineral Exploration and Mining (December 2022) provided that mining activity should not take place on the Irish seabed until such time as sufficient data is available to adequately assess the potential impacts.
- Today’s Government decision applies essentially the same policy approach in respect to the international seabed.