What Are The Dangers Of Deep Sea Mining

Deep in the ocean lie what some say are crucial resources for expanding the world’s renewable energy. The discovery of mineral riches in the deep-sea has sparked a mining mania, but also concern about environmental impact.

Mining companies are hoping to gather metals and minerals called polymetallic nodules which contain manganese and cobalt, elements that help power electric cars and other green technology. Proponents also say the need to transition to clean energy on a large scale is a key reason to press ahead.

And the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru is hoping to benefit. Earlier this year it gave notice to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN agency in charge of regulating mining in international waters, that it was triggering a rule that would force the agency to consider all deep-sea mining licences in two years time.

But activists say deep-sea mining will be an environmental disaster, and cause irreversible damage to some of the world’s last untouched habitats, putting ocean life in further danger. They also warn the damage may not just be confined to the ocean floor. Mining may release stored carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. Last month 530 marine-science and policy experts from 44 countries signed a statement warning that seabed mining would cause damage that will be “irreversible on multi-generational timescales.” Some companies like BMW, Volvo, and Google have also pledged not to use ocean-mined metals.

In this episode of The Stream, we discuss deep-sea mining and ask if a moratorium is needed to protect the ocean.


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