‘Deep-sea gold rush’ for rare metals could cause irreversible harm

Date: April 29, 2022

Source: The Guardian

Author: Rupert Neate

Mining companies are planning to profit from the new industry, but environmental campaigners warn of disastrous consequences.

In a windowless conference room in Canary Wharf, dozens of mining executives, bankers and government officials are being promised unique insights into how to profit from “the deep-sea gold rush”.

The hoped-for gold rush lies thousands of miles away on the bed of the Pacific Ocean, where trillions of potato-sized nodules of rare earth elements vital to power the next generation of electric cars have been discovered 4,000m below the surface.

Mining companies are hoping that global rules to allow industrial scale deep-sea mining to collect the haul could be set in place as early as July 2023.

However, environmental campaigners warned that mining for the metals would be “dangerous”, “reckless” and cause “irreversible harm” to little-known ecosystems. One estimate suggests that 90% of the deep-sea species that researchers encounter are new to science.

Louisa Casson, a Greenpeace campaigner, criticised the industry for running the conference and banks for considering investing in the “dangerous and unnecessary” projects to “make a quick profit”.

“This destructive new industry wants to rip up an ecosystem we are only just starting to understand,” she said. “[They are] aiming to make a quick profit while our oceans and the billions of people relying on them bear the costs.”

Jessica Battle, who runs the WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining campaign, said: “Deep-seabed mining is highly risky and will cause irreversible harm to the ocean, to its life and its ability to help mitigate climate change. Investing in such a highly unsustainable industry at a time when we need to reduce our footprint on the natural world is irresponsible.

“Any short-term incentives offered are far outweighed by the long-term benefits of a healthy ocean and so WWF and others are calling for a global moratorium on deep seabed mining. Alternative solutions already exist – innovation, recycling and repair can satisfy industries’ need for raw materials without opening the seafloor to mining.”

Read the full article here.

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