Deep-sea mining: A dangerous prospect

Date: September 6, 2018

Source: The Pioneer
Author: Kota Sriraj

A fall in the number of deep sea organisms illustrates the adverse impact of mining our oceans. This ruthless exploitation must end

Oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and humankind. They flow over nearly three-quarters of our planet and hold 97 per cent of the planet’s water. They produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb most of the carbon from it. About half of the world’s population lives within the coastal zone, and ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy. With credentials such as these, oceans of the world need to be treated with utmost care. Sadly, this is not the case. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, oceans are already filled with about 165 million tonnes of plastic, and it is estimated that by 2050, the weight of plastic floating in the oceans of the world will far outweigh the combined weight of fishes in it. To make matters worse, the prospect of deep-sea mining for precious metals, gas and petroleum is emerging as a serious threat.

The sea below 200 metres depth accounts for 95 per cent of the volume of the ocean, making it the largest habitat for life on Earth. Though it is perpetually cold, generally dark and subject to extreme pressures, the deep-sea contains a wealth of unique and unusual species, habitats and ecosystems. It also contains vast sources of mineral resources, some of them in unique or highly enriched concentrations. Attempts to recover these resources during the 1970s and 1980s were impaired by legal uncertainties and technical constraints, along with metal prices that did not justify the enormous investments required. Today, legal uncertainties have been largely resolved — marine mining and environmental monitoring technology have advanced rapidly. This has led to a renewed vigour with which ocean prospecting for its wealth has begun in right earnest.

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