(Adds comments from natural resources minister)
OTTAWA, Feb 9 (Reuters) –
The Canadian government said on Thursday it would not allow mining in its domestic ocean seabeds without a “rigorous regulatory structure” and that the need for natural resources does not override Ottawa’s environmental commitments.
Sea floor nodules contain critical minerals used in batteries that are needed to fuel the world’s transition to clean energy, but trawling the sea floor for them could disrupt ecosystems.
“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,” natural resources and oceans and fisheries ministers said in a joint statement.
The decision comes after a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which includes representatives from 14 countries, in 2020 said mining on sea floors should not begin before full assessments of the likely environmental impacts are made.
Any decision on whether to allow seabed mining needed to be “informed by science” and protect ecosystems while also weighing economic and social effects, according to the joint statement.
Canada is also not exploring the potential for seabed mining outside its jurisdictional waters, it added, citing previous G7 commitments.
Speaking at an event in Vancouver on Thursday, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson noted Canada’s critical minerals strategy, which was unveiled in December, aims to balance economic progress with environmental management.
Canada’s “need for critical minerals and other resources did not override our obligation for science based decision making and high ESG standards,” Wilkinson said, referring to the strategy document.
The joint statement “makes clear our position our economic advancement cannot come at the cost 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)