28th Sep 2023

MEPs reject deep-sea mining in raw materials vote

  • Deep sea mining would most likely result in permanent loss of biodiversity according to the approved EU document (Photo: Jason Taellious)
Listen to article

EU plans to secure its own supply of raw materials got approval in a plenary vote in the European Parliament on Thursday (14 September).

The legislation is meant to reduce reliance on China, which dominates the metals market, such as cobalt, lithium, and boron used to produce batteries and wind turbines.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We're in geopolitically stormy waters," said German liberal MEP Nicola Beer, who is leading the file, adding that the EU is 99 percent dependent on China for its rare earth supply.

"[The EU is] confronted with Chinese export restrictions on germanium and gallium," she said. "We cannot allow that to be the case," she added.

The latest iteration of the so-called Critical Raw Materials Act establishes that 15 percent of domestic demand should be met by recycling by 2030, and 50 percent has to be processed within the EU, up from nearly nothing today.

The law is being rushed through the legislative process because many in Brussels deem it essential to respond quickly to Chinese dominance.

The final text was approved by a large majority, with 515 MEPs backing it against 34 opposed and 28 abstentions.

But the approved text also includes precautionary language against deep-sea mining, which some extraction companies have pushed as solutions to meet future rare earth demand, and which, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris, could rise by 40 percent by 2040.

But the plenary text published on Thursday warned that "deep sea mining will most likely result in damage to ecosystems and a permanent loss of biodiversity," calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining since the impact on marine ecosystems has not been researched.

EU member states and the European Parliament will now enter a final round of negotiations to try to agree the text before the end of the year.

There may still be some scope for lobbyists to influence the outcome. Some like the Metals Company, a Canadian mining operation, are lobbying heavily for the acceptance of deep-sea mining.

"People think we are debating if deep sea mining should happen or not, and that's gone. It's happening," said the Metals Company CEO Gerard Barron recently.

But Europe's top science panel called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining in a report released in June.

And negotiators from France, Germany, Portugal and Ireland have all spoken out against deep-sea mining.

"The plenary vote today in the European Parliament is another strong signal against deep-sea mining," said Steve Trent, CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation, a London-based NGO.

"EU Member States have a real opportunity to safeguard our futures by ensuring that the door is closed to materials exploited from the deep sea," he added.


EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Solar panels, wind-turbines, electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies require minerals including aluminium, cobalt and lithium — which are mined in some of the most conflict-riven nations on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kazakhstan.

EU launches critical raw materials act

The EU presented its strategy to ensure access to critical raw materials needed for clean technologies. No country should supply more than 65 percent of any key material. Currently, China dominates almost all rare earth metal markets.

IEA says: Go green now, save €11 trillion later

The International Energy Agency finds that the clean energy investment needed to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius warming saves $12 trillion [€11.3 trillion] in fuel expenditure — and creates double the amount of jobs lost in fossil fuel-related industries.


How do you make embarrassing EU documents 'disappear'?

The EU Commission's new magic formula for avoiding scrutiny is simple. You declare the documents in question to be "short-lived correspondence for a preliminary exchange of views" and thus exempt them from being logged in the official inventory.

Latest News

  1. Germany tightens police checks on Czech and Polish border
  2. EU Ombudsman warns of 'new normal' of crisis decision-making
  3. How do you make embarrassing EU documents 'disappear'?
  4. Resurgent Fico hopes for Slovak comeback at Saturday's election
  5. EU and US urge Azerbijan to allow aid access to Armenians
  6. EU warns of Russian 'mass manipulation' as elections loom
  7. Blocking minority of EU states risks derailing asylum overhaul
  8. Will Poles vote for the end of democracy?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us