Statement on Seabed Mining
February 9, 2023 Vancouver, British Columbia Natural Resources Canada
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, and the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, released a statement confirming Canada’s position on seabed mining:
The protection, conservation, restoration, and sustainable and equitable use of the global ocean is essential for all life on earth, and we must continue to safeguard its integrity and connectivity. Canada will continue to lead global and national efforts toward enhancing the protection and restoration of vulnerable marine ecosystems and wildlife, including through active international engagement to improve oceans governance. Canada recognizes the importance of marine ecosystems as a climate regulator, and will continue to take a precautionary approach to ensure that the development of marine resources are consistent with strong environmental, social, and governance principles which support our efforts to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Canada remains committed to increasing the conservation of our oceans to 25 per cent by 2025, working toward 30 per cent by 2030, having already increased the amount of protected marine and coastal areas from less than one per cent in 2015 to more than 14 per cent now.
Seabed mining in areas under national jurisdiction
We remain committed to responsible resource management that upholds strong environmental, social, and governance principles and supports our efforts to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Canada has several federal pieces of legislation, such as the Oceans Act, Species at Risk Act and the Fisheries Act, that play an important role in protecting the environment and biodiversity across Canada. This includes in our domestic waters, such as a protection standard that prohibits industrial activities such as mining and bottom trawling in new federal marine protected areas established after April 25, 2019. Canada has also made historic investments in ocean health through the $3.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, recently renewed and expanded just last year.
Canada does not presently have a domestic legal framework that would permit seabed mining and, in the absence of a rigorous regulatory structure, will not authorize seabed mining in areas under its jurisdiction. Due diligence, as well as precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, must be exercised with respect to decision-making regarding seabed mineral activity and governance. A robust knowledge base on ocean environments and the understanding of potential impacts from seabed mining operations is critical to ensure that any decision is informed by science and is made for the effective protection of marine ecosystems, taking into account environmental, economic, and social effects. Indigenous Peoples, industry, provinces and territories, and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, must also have the opportunity to be engaged on Canada’s seabed mineral governance.
Seabed mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction
The Government of Canada has not taken part in the exploration of mineral resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In line with our commitment in the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers’ Communiqué of May 2022, the recommendations of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy's Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy: A Vision for Protection, Production and Prosperity document, and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, and consistent with Canada’s commitment to finalizing a strong High Seas Treaty, Canada believes that knowledge of the deep sea marine environment and of potential impacts of deep-sea mining is critical for any decision to authorize any seabed mining. Such operations must comply with robust environmental standards and be able to demonstrate that the environment is not seriously harmed as determined according to the rules, regulations, and procedures adopted by the International Seabed Authority on the basis of internationally recognized standards and practices.
Seabed mining should only take place if effective protection of the marine environment is provided through a rigorous regulatory structure, applying precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches, using science-based and transparent management, and ensuring effective compliance with a robust inspection mechanism. Canada will continue to uphold the principles, rights, duties, and obligations in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and negotiate in good faith on regulations to ensure that seabed activities do no harm to the marine environment and are carried out solely for the benefit of humankind as a whole.
Natural Resources Canada
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources
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