The New Zealand government has announced it will back a conditional moratorium on deep sea mining in areas in international waters.
It said this moratorium will remain until strong environment rules, backed by robust science, are in place.
The decision comes amid a review on a regulatory process to control deep sea mining in the area managed by the International Seabed Authority, which is the seabed beyond exclusive economic zones and extended continental shelves.
The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, said the scientific knowledge about these areas remains extremely limited.
She said much more scientific knowledge about the deep seabed is needed before mining could be considered.
Mahuta said the government is not confident a robust regulatory framework for deep sea mining can be agreed by next year’s required deadline.
“This is why we are now calling for a conditional moratorium on deep sea mining in areas beyond national jurisdiction, until a Mining Code can be agreed that ensures the effective protection of the marine environment. This requires adequate knowledge about the deep seabed, and the impacts of deep sea mining,” she said.
Countries such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji have been calling for a moratorium for several years, but other nations, such as the Cook Islands and Nauru are keen to encourage seabed mining, while Tuvalu had backed the mining proposals but has since withdrawn its sponsorship.