Little is known about the production of exopolysaccharides (EPS) in cyanobacteria, and there are no genetic and physiological evidences that EPS are involved in cell protection against the frequently encountered environmental stresses caused by salt and metals. We studied four presumptive EPS production genes, sll0923, sll1581, slr1875 and sll5052, in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803, which produces copious amounts of EPS attached to cells (CPS) and released in the culture medium (RPS) as shown here. We show that sll0923, sll1581, slr1875 and sll5052 are all dispensable to the growth of all corresponding single and double deletion mutants in absence of stress. Furthermore, we report that sll0923, sll1581 and slr1875 unambiguously operate in the production of both CPS and RPS. Both sll1581 and slr1875 are more important than sll0923 for CPS production, whereas the contrary is true for RPS production. We show that the most EPS-depleted mutant, doubly deleted for sll1581 and slr1875, lacks the EPS mantle that surrounds WT cells and sorbs iron in their vicinity. Using this mutant, we demonstrate for the first time that cyanobacterial EPS directly operate in cell protection against NaCl, CoCl2, CdSO4 and Fe-starvation. We believe that our EPS-depleted mutants will be useful tools to investigate the role of EPS in cell-to-cell aggregation, biofilm formation, biomineralization and tolerance to environmental stresses. We also suggest using the fast sedimenting mutants as biotechnological cell factories to facilitate the otherwise expensive harvest of the producer cell biomass and/or its separation from products excreted in the growth media.