France's parliament has called for the country to join the international fight to ban deep-sea mining, starting by outlawing the practice in its own vast marine territory.
The French National Assembly voted on Tuesday in favour of banning deep-sea mining in its waters, with 215 votes in favour and 56 against.
The resolution calls for a moratorium on the process "until it has been demonstrated by independent scientific groups with certainty that this extractive activity can be undertaken without degrading marine ecosystems and without loss of marine biodiversity".
In the meantime, the MPs called on France to block the adoption of any deep-sea mining regulations by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the intergovernmental body that regulates mining in international waters.
They also urged the French government to oppose the granting of any provisional mining licences, and called for a reform of the ISA to make its workings more transparent.
Risks to vulnerable ecosystems
The deep seabed, which absorbs large quantities of carbon dioxide, contains coveted deposits of rare metals - including copper, nickel and manganese - that can be used in industry, batteries and other electronics.
Environmentalists and scientists are concerned about the risks that deep-sea mining poses to vulnerable underwater ecosystems.
"Let us have no illusions: there can be no exploitation without irreversible damage to marine ecosystems," said the French Secretary of State for the Sea, Herve Berville.
"If we damage the ocean's capacity to capture carbon, we have no chance of winning the battle for the climate," said Green MP Nicolas Thierry, who tabled the motion.
He welcomed the vote as a "victory for the seabed and environmentalists".
Regulatory deadline approaching
France was granted a mining exploration licence by the ISA in 2001, one of 31 granted by the authority to date.
Under UN rules, the ISA has two years to come up with regulations that would govern attempts to exploit the sea floor. The deadline is approaching in July 2023.
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French President Emmanuel Macron has made his opposition to deep-sea mining clear. At the UN Ocean Conference last June, he called for a new legal framework to stop extraction going ahead.
Germany, Spain and New Zealand are among the other countries that have expressed concern about deep-sea mining, calling for a halt until the environmental impact has been studied more thoroughly.