California Assembly Bill (AB) 1832, the California Seabed Mining Prevention Act, received unanimous support on the Assembly floor on 5 May. This legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Luz Rivas and co-authored by Senators Ben Allen and Monique Limón, and Assemblymembers Sharon Stone and Bill Quirk, would protect more than 2,500 square miles of seafloor and marine life from hard mineral extraction.
Under existing California law, the State Lands Commission has jurisdiction over tidelands and submerged lands of the state. Existing law also makes a local trustee of granted public trust lands, as defined, a trustee of state lands and confers upon that trustee specified powers regarding the leasing or granting of rights or privileges in relation to those lands.
Existing law authorizes the commission to grant by competitive bidding leases for the extraction of minerals other than oil and gas from tidelands and submerged lands of the state under specified circumstances, when it appears to be in the public interest.
AB 1832 repeals that authorization and would instead prohibit the commission or a local trustee of granted public trust lands from granting leases or issuing permits for the extraction or removal of hard minerals, as defined, from state waters subject to tidal influence, except as provided.
California state waters do not represent a marketable source for battery metals, the emerging justification for extraction interest at the seafloor globally. The most likely interest would occur for two different types of extraction in two distinct geographic areas: (1) California’s north coast, in the hunt for gold, titanium, and other precious and semiprecious metals; and (2) the Southern California Bight, searching for phosphorites typically used in industrial fertilizer and not currently in short supply.
The legislatures of the States of Oregon and Washington have both passed analogous legislation to prohibit seabed mining in their state waters, in 1991 and 2021, respectively.