Deep Sea Mining – Explained!
Deep Sea mining is when we dig and take valuable minerals from the bottom of the ocean. The United Nations has rules for this, and they are going to talk about it again soon. Some countries and companies want to do deep-sea mining to get the materials needed for clean energy. But there are worries that this could harm marine life and the ocean’s delicate ecosystems, which we don’t know much about yet. Environmental activists are raising concerns about the potential negative impacts of deep-sea mining.
Here is an explanation of what deep sea mining is, why certain businesses and nations are requesting permission to engage in it, and why environmental activists are concerned.
What is Deep Sea Mining?
Resources on land are becoming limited as demand rises and the world’s advancement in technology increases, prompting explorers to go to the waters to satisfy their needs.
Deep sea mining is an exciting new industry that seeks to extract valuable minerals from the ocean’s depths to meet the increasing global demand for resources. As technology advances and land-based resources become scarce, explorers are turning their attention to the vast potential beneath the waves.
Deep-sea mining is often divided into three categories:
Polymetallic Nodule Mining: This involves extracting rich deposits of nodules from the ocean floor. These nodules contain valuable metals like manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt, which are crucial for various industries, including technology and energy production.
Seafloor Massive Sulfide Mining: Massive sulfide deposits found on the seafloor are rich in minerals like copper, gold, zinc, and silver. Extracting these deposits offers significant economic potential for industries reliant on these minerals.
Cobalt Crust Mining: Cobalt crusts form on rocks and contain valuable materials like cobalt, which is vital for battery production. Stripping these crusts can provide essential resources for modern technologies.
The minerals obtained through deep-sea mining play a pivotal role in powering our increasingly connected and sustainable world. They are used in manufacturing, renewable energy technologies, electronics, and various other applications.
What are the Environmental Concerns?
Environmental concerns surrounding deep-sea mining arise due to the limited exploration and lack of established environmental protocols in this field. Conservationists worry that mining activities can cause significant damage to ecosystems that we still know very little about.
There are several specific concerns:
Damage to Ecosystems: Mining can result in noise, vibration, and light pollution, which can disrupt marine life and their habitats. Additionally, the potential for leaks and spills of fuels and chemicals used in the mining process poses risks to the surrounding environment.
Sediment Plumes: Some mining techniques involve pumping slurry sediment back into the sea after extracting valuable materials. Other marine life may also be suffocated or disturbed by these sediment plumes, which may harm species that feed on filters like corals and sponges.
Biodiversity Loss: Scientists warn that deep sea mining could lead to inevitable and potentially irreversible loss of biodiversity. Since our understanding of deep-sea biology, environments, and ecosystems is still incomplete, it is considered premature to engage in mining activities without fully grasping the potential consequences.
Christopher Kelley, a biologist specializing in deep-sea ecology, emphasizes the need to further study the deep sea and its intricate ecosystems before proceeding with mining operations.
Why there is pressure on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to establish regulations?
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is facing pressure to establish regulations for deep sea mining now because of a specific event in 2021. Nauru, a Pacific Island nation, along with a mining company called Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, applied to the ISA to exploit minerals in a certain deep-sea area. A provision in the UN treaty has been triggered as a result, and by July 2023, the ISA must establish regulations on deep-sea mining. If they don’t finish the regulations in time, Nauru can apply to mine without any rules in place. Other countries and companies can also start applying for mining licenses if the ISA fails to approve regulations by July 9. Experts believe it’s unlikely they can complete the process in time, which might take several years. This urgency to establish regulations aims to avoid hasty and uncontrolled deep-sea mining activities.
Global Divide on Deep Sea Mining: Environmental Concerns and Economic Interests
Several well-known companies, including Google, Samsung, and BMW, have joined forces with the World Wildlife Fund to support a request. This request asks companies to promise not to use minerals that are extracted from the Earth’s oceans. It is essential because mining activities in the deep sea can cause significant harm to the environment.
Additionally, more than a dozen countries, such as France, Germany, and some Pacific Island nations, have officially expressed their concerns about deep sea mining. They have called for a ban, a pause, or a moratorium on this type of mining until proper measures are in place to protect the environment. However, it is unclear how many other countries support this stance.
On the other hand, some countries, like Norway, are considering the idea of allowing mining in their own waters. They believe that it could bring economic benefits. However, this approach raises concerns about the potential environmental impacts that could occur as a result.
To summarize, certain companies and countries are supporting the World Wildlife Fund’s call to avoid using minerals extracted from the oceans. They recognize the need to protect the environment from the potential damage caused by deep-sea mining. However, opinions on this matter differ among countries, with some advocating for a ban or pause on mining, while others are considering opening their waters for such activities.