Spain takes first step to ban deep-sea mining in its waters as global momentum for a stop to the industry grows

Date: April 14, 2022


  • NGOs applaud Spain and call on the government to go further by pushing for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining at the forthcoming sessions of the International Seabed Authority and the UN Biodiversity Convention conference, scheduled to take place later this year.
  • Global pressure for a moratorium or ban on the nascent industry continues to build as this week at the Our Ocean conference in Palau, the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining (PPADSM) launched, and Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa called for a ban on deep-sea mining during a Greenpeace event. Tuvalu’s Foreign Affairs Minister also announced that the country has withdrawn its sponsorship of the company Tuvalu Circular Metals for a deep-sea mining exploration contract. 

Global backlash against deep-sea mining continues as the Spanish Government took the first step towards banning deep-sea mining in its national waters this week. A Royal Decree that entered into force on April 13th establishes new criteria for activities carried out in the country’s jurisdiction, effectively endorsing a moratorium, a global and official pause on  deep-sea mining.

The Royal Decree incorporates the proposal from the European Commission to establish a precautionary approach to deep-sea mining and the European Parliament’s June 2021 call on EU member states to promote a moratorium on deep-sea mining “until such time as the effects of deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and human activities at sea have been studied and researched sufficiently and deep seabed mining can be managed to ensure no marine biodiversity loss nor degradation of marine ecosystems”.

The Spanish government had previously voted in favour of a resolution calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining at the meeting of the World Conservation Congress of  the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in September 2021. The IUCN resolution, supported by 37 countries and over 500 NGOs, calls on states to support and implement a moratorium on deep-sea mining, both at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) —the UN body tasked with regulating and protecting the deep seabed outside national jurisdiction— and in waters within national jurisdiction.

Environmental NGOs including the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and Ecologistas en Acción applaud the legislation as an important step. However, they are urging Spain to now go further and call for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining at the ISA and at the upcoming ‘Conference of Parties’ to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity scheduled to take place in China later this year. 

The Spanish delegation has not yet called for a moratorium, including at the recent meeting of the Council of the ISA and a preparatory meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity both of which took place last month. In addition to NGOs, the Spanish high seas fishing industry is also calling on the government to support an international moratorium on deep-sea mining.

“Spain plays a prominent role at the International Seabed Authority and beginning in 2023 will take a seat on the Council of the ISA, the body ultimately responsible to decide whether or not to start mining the deep seabed. We call on the Spanish government and President Pedro Sanchez to support, without further delay, a moratorium on deep-sea mining at the next meetings of the ISA in July and August and at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming China in September.”

Joám Evans Pim – Ecologistas en Acción.

“The member countries of the ISA are, or at least should be, well aware that permitting deep-sea mining in the eastern Pacific, where Nauru Ocean Resources Inc and others want to mine first, would cause widespread destruction of species and ecosystems in the area”

Matthew Gianni – DSCC Co-founder and Policy Advisor.

“Once the ISA adopts regulations and begins issuing permits it will be almost impossible for the ISA to deny a permit to any country or company that applies for one. We are calling on the member countries of the ISA to recognize the clear warnings from scientists and to reform and transform the ISA into a global body that prioritises environmental protection over mineral exploitation and contributes to our understanding of the critical role the deep-sea and open ocean plays in regulating global climatesaid Gianni 

The news from Spain comes as concerns continue surrounding the many risks the industry would pose if allowed to go ahead, grow across the Pacific. Political leaders from across the region shared their concerns at the launch of the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining (PPADSM) launched at the Our Ocean conference, held in Palau this week. 

During a Greenpeace event at the conference Hawaiian actor and Aquaman star Jason Momoa called for urgent ocean protection and an outright ban on destructive deep sea mining. 

Tuvalu’s Minister for Justice, Communication & Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe, also confirmed this week that Tuvalu has withdrawn its sponsorship of the mysterious company Tuvalu Circular Metals for a deep-sea mining exploration contract at the International Seabed Authority- an important sign of the changing political winds in the Pacific region on the urgent and controversial issue of deep-sea mining. 

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