20 October 2014
Source: Environment 360
Author: Mike Ives
For years, the idea of prospecting for potentially rich deposits of minerals on the ocean floor was little more than a pipe dream. Extractive equipment was not sophisticated or cost-effective enough for harsh environments thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface, and mining companies were busy exploring mineral deposits on land.
But the emergence of advanced technologies specifically designed to plumb the remote seabed— along with declining mineral quality at many existing terrestrial mines — is nudging the industry closer to a new and, for some environmentalists and ocean scientists, worrying frontier.
More than two-dozen permits have been issued for mineral prospecting in international waters. And in April, after years of false starts, a Canadian mining company signed an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea to mine for copper and gold in its territorial waters.
That company, Nautilus Minerals, plans to begin testing its equipment next year in European waters, according to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a regulatory agency established in 1994 under the auspices of the United Nations.