s land-based minerals become depleted and prices rise, the search for new sources of supply is turning to the sea floor. This emerging industry, facilitated by advances in technology, poses a major threat to our oceans, which are already suffering from a number of pressures including overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change.
The remote deep and open oceans host a major part of the world’s biodiversity, and are vital for our survival on Earth. The deep sea plays an important role in regulating planetary processes, including regulation of temperature and greenhouse gases. It supports ocean life by cycling nutrients and providing habitat for a staggering array of species.
Deep seabed mining could have serious impacts on the ocean environment and the future livelihoods and wellbeing of coastal communities. Only 3% of the oceans are protected and less than 1% of the high seas, making them some of the least protected places on Earth. The emerging threat of seabed mining is an urgent wake-up call.
via Deep Seabed Mining | Greenpeace International.
And Prof Paul Tyler, also a biologist, of the National Oceanography Centre, warned that unique species would be at risk.
“If you wipe out that area by mining, those animals have to do one of two things: they disperse and colonise another hydrothermal vent somewhere or they die.
“And what happens when they die is that the vent will become biologically extinct.”
However, marine chemist Prof Rachel Mills, of the University of Southampton, called for a wider debate about mining generally on the grounds that we all use minerals and that mines on land are far larger than any would be on the seabed.
She has carried out research for Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian firm planning to mine hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea.
“Everything we are surrounded by, the way we live, relies on mineral resources and we don’t often ask where they come from,” she said.
“We need to ask whether there is sustainable mining on land and whether there is sustainable mining in the seas.
“I actually think it is the same moral questions we ask whether it’s from the Andes or down in the Bismarck Sea.”
This debate is set to intensify as the reality of the first mining operations comes closer.
David Shukman presents a documentary on deep sea mining on Discovery on the BBC World Service
Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals Inc. has staked its reputation on bringing off the world’s first deep sea mining (DSM) operation. The Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea has been marked out as the testing ground for this unprecedented technology. Many other companies − from Japan, China, Korea, the UK, Canada, USA, Germany and the Russian Federation − are waiting to see if Nautilus can successfully bring metals from sea floor to smelter before taking the plunge themselves. They have already taken out exploration licenses covering over 1.5 million square kilometers of the Pacific sea floor.
This frenzy of DSM exploration is occurring in the absence of regulatory regimes or conservation areas to protect the unique and little known ecosystems of the deep sea and without meaningful consultation with the communities who will be affected by DSM. Furthermore, scientific research into impacts remains extremely limited and provides no assurance that the health of coastal communities and the fisheries on which they depend will be guaranteed.
via Deep Sea Mining − The Pacific Experiment | Pacific Voyagers.