22 March 2014
Author: Suzanne Goldenberg
This is the last frontier: the ocean floor, 4,000 metres beneath the waters of the central Pacific, where mining companies are now exploring for the rich deposits of ores needed to keep industry humming and smartphones switched on.
The prospect of a race to the bottom of the ocean, a 21st-century high seas version of the Klondike gold rush, has alarmed scientists. The oceans make up 45 per cent of the world’s surface. They are already degraded by overfishing, industrial waste, plastic debris and climate change, which is altering their chemistry. Now comes a new extractive industry and scientists say governments are not prepared.
“It’s like a land grab,” says Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and explorer-in-residence for National Geographic. “It’s a handful of individuals who are giving away or letting disproportionate special interests have access to large parts of the planet that just happen to be under water.”