Environmental Advocates Warn vs Deep Sea Mining
High demand for copper and cobalt is pushing mining firms to explore the world’s oceans, a troubling development for scientists who warn that extracting minerals from critical ecosystems that help regulate climate could cause irreparable damage, Danica Coto reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Less than 1% of the world’s deep ocean waters have been explored, an endeavor that experts say is expensive, technical, and time-consuming.
The issue will be in the spotlight this week as dozens of scientists, lawyers, and government officials gather in Jamaica to debate deep sea mining as part of a two-week conference organized by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an independent body created by a United Nations (UN) treaty.
“You can’t regulate what you don’t understand,” said Duncan Currie, an international and environmental lawyer and legal adviser to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, a Netherlands-based alliance of environmental groups.
Less than 1% of the world’s deep ocean waters have been explored, an endeavor that experts say is expensive, technical, and time-consuming.
The organization is the global custodian for deep ocean waters that don’t fall within any country’s jurisdiction. It has issued 31 exploration licenses so far. Experts say mining could spark a rush to collect minerals that take millions of years to form and unleash noise, light, and smothering dust storms deep in the Earth’s oceans.
“It’s one of the most pristine parts of our planet. There’s a lot that stands to be lost,” said Diva Amon, a marine biologist, National Geographic explorer and a scientific adviser to the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The first exploration license was issued in the early 2000s, with most of the current exploratory activity is concentrated in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, which covers 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) between Hawaii and Mexico.
At least 17 of 31 licenses have been issued for this zone, with exploration occurring at depths ranging from 13,000 to 19,000 feet (4,000 to 6,000 meters.) The push for deep sea mining has grown to the point that the authority is now meeting three times a year instead of two, with a key decision expected as early as July 2023.