Source: Polpular Science – Mary Beth Griggs
A policy paper published today in Science is asking authorities to hold off on approving any more underwater mining contracts until more environmental controls are put in place.
The timing of this policy paper is key. Currently in Kingston, Jamaica, the International Seabed Authority (ISA)–the arm of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that governs mining in international waters–is holding its annual session. ISA has already issued exploration permits to both national and private companies all eager to get a piece of the action. In this year’s session, the Authority is expected to figure out how to impose some environmental regulation on the nascent underwater mining industry.
Deep-sea mining of the ocean floor is still very much in the exploration phase. The real action likely won’t start for a few more years. Nautilus Minerals, one of the leading deep sea mining companies expects to have its deep sea mining vessel built in 2017, and would start mining at some point after that.
The scientists writing today’s paper want the ISA to hold off on issuing new permits until a network of protected marine areas can be put in place, potentially safeguarding an environment that we know very little about.