GSR Welcomes Belgian Government’s Commitment to Support Continued Scientific Research and Data Collection for Seabed Minerals

November 19, 2020

Press Release
Antwerp, 19 November 2020 – Following careful deliberation and debate, the Belgian Government has backed continued research into deep seabed minerals, while reiterating its commitment to a precautionary approach to deep sea exploitation. This week, the new Belgian Deputy PM and Minister of Justice and the North Sea , Vincent Van Quickenborne, presented his policy note and emphasised that the oceans are of enormous importance to a society in need of a healthy and resilient marine ecosystem. Mr Van Quickenborne highlighted that following the Brussels Conference on Climate Change and Oceans Preservation in 2019, Belgium stepped into the international spotlight and became part of the Blue Leaders at an international level, an alliance of more than 20 states that are committed to protecting 30 percent of the oceans by 2030. Belgium is also a member state of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is mandated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of humankind as a whole.  The ISA must also ensure the effective protection of the marine environment. Under ISA’s stewardship, a network of set-aside areas has already been established, comprising ~30 percent of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), an area of the Pacific Ocean’s seafloor known for its wealth of metal-rich nodules and where several entities hold mineral exploration contracts.  The set-aside areas from an important part of the region’s Environmental Management Plan to ensure conservation goals are met. Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said: “Our voice at the table is being heard as we argue for further scientific research and data collection related to deep-sea mining.” “Belgium will ensure that strict environmental norms and standards as well as the precautionary principle are taken into account.” This follows an agreement made by the nation’s coalition government on 30 September 2020 which stated: “Scientific research and data collection related to deep-sea mining is further supported. By participating at the international level, we ensure that environmental legislation and the precautionary principle are observed during the development of the exploitation rules.” GSR – the contractor that operates the Belgian concession in the CCZ, has long-called for a cautious, step by step approach to project development and highlights the importance of research and prior impact assessments. Kris van Nijen, Managing Director of GSR, said: “We are pleased that the government has reasserted its commitment to exploring the deep ocean as a potential source of critical minerals. Responsible decisions can only be made once we have gathered the facts and we look forward to continuing this vital research, alongside the scientific research community”. The full policy brief can be read here. Ends