Canada won’t permit sea floor mining without ‘rigorous’ regulations

Canada won't permit sea floor mining without 'rigorous' regulations

Posted Feb 9, 2023 3:20pm ET

Lobster fishermen work at sunrise in the Atlantic Ocean, September 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

OTTAWA – Canada’s government said Thursday it would not allow mining in its native seabeds without a “rigorous regulatory structure” and that natural resource needs do not override Ottawa’s environmental commitments.

Seafloor nodules contain critical minerals used in batteries needed to power the world’s clean energy transition, but hauling the seafloor after them could disrupt ecosystems.

“Canada does not currently have a domestic legal framework that would allow seabed mining and, in the absence of a strong regulatory structure, will not permit seabed mining in areas under its jurisdiction,” the natural resources, oceans and fisheries ministers said in a joint statement.

The decision comes after a report commissioned in 2020 by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which includes representatives from 14 countries, says seabed mining should not begin before a full assessment of the likely environmental impact has been made.

Any decision on whether to allow seabed mining must be “science-based” and protect ecosystems while weighing economic and social impacts, the joint statement said.

Canada is also not investigating the potential for seabed mining outside its territorial waters, it added, citing previous G7 commitments.

At an event Thursday in Vancouver, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson pointed out that Canada’s critical minerals strategy, unveiled in December, aims to balance economic progress with environmental management.

Canada’s “needs for critical minerals and other resources have not overridden our commitment to science-based decision-making and high ESG standards,” Wilkinson said, referring to the strategy document.

The joint statement “makes clear our position that our economic progress must not come at the expense of the health of our oceans,” he added.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Kirsten Donovan)