Deep sea mining-who will win the battle?

Author: Agata Mrowiec
Date: June 12, 2014



Commercial deep-sea mining operations are set to become a reality by 2016 in the Pacific Ocean, and will have a negative impact on our planet that we cannot even begin to measure. According to official statistics, only 3 % of the oceans are protected (IUCN), and we have only explored about 1% of ocean floor (NOAA). It is clear that we must humbly recognize that very little knowledge exists about most of the natural processes taking place in the ocean’s depths.

Yet, the European Commission has placed seafloor mining high on its agenda, as one of the key priorities in their Blue Growth Strategy. What’s worse, is that they have gone on to describe deep sea mining as one of the key components contributing towards the achievement of the “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” outlined in the goals of Europe 2020.

So what is the cost to the environment?

Although seabed mining does not require the construction of additional infrastructure, as is  the case with land mining, it leaves a permanent footprint on the marine environment. Industrial activities to excavate minerals using large robotic machines result in removing vast sections of the sea floor and damaging marine life.  Furthermore, metals disseminated during the process of mining can easily be absorbed into fish, leading to the contamination of the food chain, and directly affecting the health of consumers. While the heated debate around deep-sea fisheries unveils a highly uneconomical and environmentally destructive activity, seabed mining looks like a twin evil. In fact deep-sea bottom trawling below 600 meters depth is known to have devastating environmental impacts, yet large-scale industrial mining projects are developing at the same depth and much deeper!

Scientists know very little about the effects this industry’s activity will have on the seafloor: “This is both because it is difficult to model all of the likely impacts of such operations, and because of the limited scientific knowledge on the biological communities of the deep sea and the species that are found in them, “confirms prof. Alex Rogers from the University of Oxford.

The shortage of raw land minerals, the rise in prices, as well as a growing global demand for metals are the major factors behind the industry’s quest for new sources of supply. But the reality is that enough of these materials are already in use, and efficient recycling policies can contribute to more cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to deep-sea mining.

The Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries recently launched a public consultation on seabed mining, serving as a platform for an open discussion on the subject. Oceana strongly invites e-activists, citizens and businesses to submit their opinions on the issue, and stand up against deep-sea mining.

The question of seabed mining isn’t only about economics and investments, it’s also about what our society is ready to accept.  Don’t stay indifferent, take action and be heard!  

Say NO to deep sea mining: http://act.oceana.org/signup/deep-sea-mining-ec/