Gold at the Bottom of the Sea: Ours for the Taking? Myths and realities of deep-sea mining

Date: April 16, 2015

Source: IASS Potsdam Blog

Author: Jeff Ardron

Some researchers think that the deep sea could become a treasure chest for humanity, full of gold, silver, cobalt, and other minerals – enough to feed our consumer societies for centuries and lift poor nations out of poverty.

Others are more doubtful.

In a world of eternal darkness, cold temperatures, and pressures powerful enough to crush titanium submarines, deep-sea mining might seem like a bit of a crazy idea. That anything could even live down there would appear even more unlikely. That the seafloor is, in some places, littered with rock balls sometimes as big as tennis balls, chock full of valuable metals, seems stranger still… But once you know where to look, the deep sea is full of such surprises. Some of these surprises are being discussed this week in Berlin, where experts are at a workshop hosted by GEOMARand the IASS to debate the future of deep-sea mining.

When I started this research about two years ago, most of the popular press was saying that we are running out of minerals on land. As it turns out, this is not true at all… No matter, the story continues that we need not worry because there is all this great stuff at the bottom of the sea. Just like oil and gas, we will turn our focus on the deep sea to serve our future mineral and metal needs. But the more I looked into it, the more convinced I became that this was a huge over-simplification, the wishful thinking of a few who were heavily invested in the idea.

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