Source: Counter Punch
Author: Julia Barnes
Even as the ocean struggles under the assaults of industrial fishing, ocean warming, pollution, and acidification, corporations are pushing to exploit it in a new and dangerous way.
Deep sea mining includes plans to extract polymetallic nodules from the sea floor. Commercial exploitation could begin as early as 2024. It would involve house-sized machines indiscriminately extracting the contents of the seabed, sending the material to a ship at the surface, processing, and subsequently dumping a slurry of wastewater back into the ocean.
Some companies have stated that the sediment will be returned to a depth below 1200m. That’s called the bathypelagic zone – and some animals who live there include viperfish, anglerfish, frilled sharks, eels, and squid. Sediment plumes, like the ones created by seabed mining, are known to be deadly to fish, because the particulate matter damages their ability to breathe.
Mining machines bring noise and light, disruptive to life in a normally quiet, dark environment. As they move, the machines stir up sediment, burying and smothering organisms.
Despite the claims of corporations, this is not a “gentle” form of mining, and the seabed is not a “vast marine desert” but home to a diversity of species whose existence may soon be threatened.
Species extinction is considered a “likely outcome” of deep sea mining.
The rock-like formations known as polymetallic nodules are sought-after because they contain metals like nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese, used in electric vehicle batteries. Because of this, seabed mining has been framed as a service to the planet. Yet the same corporations that claim to care about sustainability are pushing to fast-track regulations, to begin exploiting a fragile biome, risking ecosystem collapse.