Deep Sea Mining Bill clears second reading
The Deep Sea Mining Bill has cleared its first parliamentary hurdle, as MPs passed the bill at second reading on 6 September 2013.
The bill would amend existing legislation to ensure that companies seeking to exploit mineral resources of the deep sea bed obtain licences from the International Seabed Authority, in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It has been prepared by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and is being steered through the Commons by Conservative backbencher Sheryll Murray.
Opening the debate, Ms Murray told MPs of the "enormous potential" of deep sea mining, with Britain "well-placed" to benefit strategically, economically, and in employment terms.
In March, Prime Minister David Cameron said international seabed mining could be worth £40bn to the UK economy over the next 30 years.
Environmental groups have voiced concerns about the environmental implications of deep sea mining, in light of the increasing numbers of applications to explore for minerals in the deep sea.
Ms Murray said the activity was not carried out near any coastal communities, adding: "Deep sea mining is not fracking... neither does it involve any of the techniques involved in land-based mining."
Urging support for the bill, the MP said it was vital for the UK to be involved in shaping the regulation and standards of mining mineral resources from deep sea beds.
Brent North MP Barry Gardiner said he did not oppose the bill, but expressed concerns that it "does not reinforce" environmental protections.
Shadow defence minister Russell Brown told the Commons: "We should be there exploring, seeing what can be of benefit to man kind."
But he cautioned that there needs to be sufficient policing of the activities of companies carrying out the exploration.
For the government, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said British businesses should be at the forefront of the emerging deep sea mining industry.
The bill went on to receive an unopposed second reading.
At the start of the session MPs voted on whether the House should sit in private. This vote is sometimes used as a procedural tactic to test the quoracy of the House.
Fewer than 40 MPs took part in the vote, meaning that the motion fell.