According to research conducted by environmentalists, deep-sea mining for rare minerals may harm the environment severely and permanently.
The report, which was released on Monday by the worldwide animal organization Fauna & Flora, adds to the growing debate over plans to remove rare minerals like cobalt, manganese, and nickel from the ocean floor. Mining corporations claim that there is a shortage of available land and that these resources are essential to the alternative energy industry.
It Has Become Increasingly Clear that Deep-Sea Mining Poses a Particular Threat to The Climate.
Oceanographers, biologists, and other scientists have cautioned that these plans will result in widespread contamination, devastate fish stocks around the world, and wipe out marine ecosystems. According to Sophie Benbow, the organization’s marine director, the ocean is essential to the basic operation of our planet, and safeguarding its delicate ecosystem is important for both marine biodiversity and all life on Earth.
In a 2020 study, Fauna & Flora first voiced opposition to ocean mining. Since then, researchers have focused more on deep-sea zones and highlighted additional risks associated with mining there. The organization’s report focuses on these. According to Catherine Weller, head of global policy at Fauna & Flora, deep-sea mining offers a unique threat to the climate in addition to other risks over the past few years.
Massive carbon reserves in the deep water might be destroyed by mining on the scale contemplated, which would further worsen the current global crisis caused by rising greenhouse gas levels.
Several studies have also underscored how grossly underdeveloped our knowledge and understanding of biodiversity are. We discover that between 70% and 90% of the species we capture on each journey are brand-new to science, according to Benbow. Not only are there new species, but also entire genera of plants and animals that we were completely ignorant of before.
David Attenborough, who has demanded a halt to all deep-sea mining proposals, shares this opinion. He claimed that mining destroys, and in this instance, it destroys an ecosystem about which we have very little understanding.
Dredging would annihilate delicate, long-lived polychaete worms, sea cucumbers, corals, and squid, according to biologists. Therefore, there would be no prospect of a speedy recovery. Food and energy are scarce at depths of several kilometers, and life advances incredibly slowly. The paper claims that once lost, biodiversity will be impossible to recover.
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The trillions of manganese, nickel, and cobalt nodules that cover the ocean floor are the main focus of the conflict over our planet’s deep-sea resources. The production of electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other technologies that will be required to replace carbon-emitting lorries, power stations, and factories depends on these metals.
Because of this, mining corporations are now vying to dig them up in massive amounts using robot rovers that would trundle over the ocean floor, sucking up nodules and pumping them to their mother boat. These rovers would be connected by pipes to surface ships.
Yet, according to marine biologists, such activities would wreak havoc on our already strained oceans, ruin their delicate ecosystems, and send poisonous metal-laced sediment plumes surging upward to poison marine food chains.
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Mining firms, on the other hand, have justified their plans by stating that drilling for mineral reserves on land causes even greater harm to the planet’s already stressed ecosystems. If we devote all our efforts to mining cobalt, nickel, and manganese there, the ecosystem would deteriorate even worse. It is suggested that you should look to the ocean’s depths instead.
Weller rejects the assertion. Deep-sea mining is being promoted by these firms as a new frontier, but they mean it to be another one as none of them claim that if we began mining the deep seabed, they would stop mining elsewhere. We would only make things worse.
With Nauru’s intention to increase sea bed exploitation, ocean specialists are concerned about the likelihood that deep-sea mining operations may start in the near future. It declared its intention to sponsor an exploitation application for nodule mining in the Pacific to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is in charge of regulating mining in territories outside of national jurisdiction, in June 2021.
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By doing this, Nauru activated a two-year rule, a legal clause that sets a deadline for the ISA to establish its first set of exploitation regulations for deep-seabed mining. As a result, deep-seabed mining may now be approved this year. The 167 ISA member states are now in conversation.
The year is crucial, Weller said. The recently adopted UN High Seas Treaty shows that the value of ocean conservation is clearly understood on a worldwide scale, but continued cooperation is required to keep the brakes on deep-sea mining.