POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Deep Sea Mining

Published Friday, September 25, 2015

In March 2013, the Prime Minister said that deep-sea mining could be worth £40bn to the UK over the next 30 years. This briefing summarises the framework governing activity in international waters. It also describes the mineral deposit types being considered and the proposed extraction methods, potential environmental effects and mitigation options.

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Key points in this POSTnote include:

  • The first deep-sea mining in national waters, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, may begin in 2018. For the UK, current deep-sea mining focus is on international waters, regulations for which are under development.
  • Three different types of deposit are being considered, each associated with a distinct geology and ecosystem. However, the extreme environment of the deep sea poses new engineering challenges.
  • Some deposits are found in areas that are known to have high ecological value.
  • The environmental impacts of deep-sea mining are uncertain because little is known about deep-sea organisms, their distribution or their sensitivity to disturbance.

POSTnotes POST-PN-0508

Author: Jonathan Wentworth

Topics: Biodiversity, Industry, International law, Marine environment, Pollution, United Nations

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.