Deep Sea Mining
Mining minerals in the deep sea is one of the greatest threats to our ecosystems. This is partly due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people will never see it in action, so will be unaware of it or at least can pretend that it isn't happening.
Another particular danger is that many of the harmful effects are hidden from sight, but are no less serious and detrimental. And - of course - how damaging these are will be controversial, with deep sea miners strongly defending what they are being paid to do.
On this page I'm looking at some of the issues around deep sea mining.
"Extensive and Irreversible" Damage
In this report the international wildlife charity Fauna and Flora reveals growing evidence of the risks associated with deep-seabed mining. They report that "its negative impacts are likely to be extensive and irreversible. Once lost, deep-sea biodiversity will be impossible to restore".
Mining companies that want to exploit mineral deposits in the deep sea – many of which are crucial to the alternative energy sector – claim they are doing so because supplies on land are running low. This adds to the growing controversy surrounding proposals to sweep the ocean floor of rare minerals including cobalt, manganese and nickel.
However, oceanographers, biologists and others have warned that these plans would destroy global fish stocks, cause widespread pollution and obliterate marine ecosystems.
According to Fauna & Flora “The ocean plays a critical role in the basic functioning of our planet, and protecting its delicate ecosystem is not just critical for marine biodiversity but for all life on Earth”.
Although the first licenses for deep sea exploration were issued in 2001, so far no licenses for actual mining have been issued. However, that could be about to change.
In this article the status of licensing is discussed, alongside the role of The International Seabed Authority.
The likelihood of licenses being issued is also discussed in the article. It points out that "Individual countries and private companies can start applying for provisional licenses on July 10 if the U.N. body does not approve a set of rules and regulations by July 9, which experts say is highly unlikely since they believe the process could take several years".
July 2023: Will the drive for EVs destroy Earth's last untouched ecosystem?
This article addresses the question of whether the hunt for minerals needed in electric car batteries etc. should turn to the deep sea.
Miles below the ocean's surface, billions of rocky lumps laden with manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and other precious minerals line the seafloor. In some areas, cobalt is also concentrated in thick metallic crusts flanking underwater mountains.
Will mining this ecosystem threaten its very existence?