A “gold rush” of seabed mining could lead to unprecedented damage to fragile deep-sea ecosystems, researchers have warned.
With major decisions on the future of seabed mining expected in 2019-20, scientists and policy experts from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace have recommended a range of measures to prevent environmental damage.
They say deep-sea ecosystems currently need more protection, rather than new threats.
They also argue that mining in the deep sea (depths below 200m) could be avoided altogether if humanity moved towards a “circular economy” that focuses on reuse and recycling of metals, reduces overconsumption and limits built-in obsolescence of technology.
“This ‘gold rush’ is being driven by our ever-growing demand for minerals,” said Dr David Santillo, a marine biologist and senior Greenpeace scientist based at the University of Exeter.
“Should we allow seabed mining – with the risk it poses to deep-sea ecosystems – or should we focus instead on reducing this demand for virgin minerals?”
The scientists also call for an improved network of Marine Protected Areas, strict regulations and monitoring of all human activities on the seabed, and far greater transparency on the costs and benefits of any proposed mining.
“The deep sea is beyond the jurisdiction of any single state and we need more joined-up global governance to prevent biodiversity loss from human activities”, said Dr Kirsten Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter and co-author on the study.
“Some areas targeted for seabed mining are known to be hotspots for biodiversity, including habitat for endemic corals and nursery grounds for sharks.”
The paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, gives an overview of the current state of regulations and their likely effectiveness, with the aim to stimulate wider discussion before the International Seabed Authority reaches any decisions to allow commercial mining of the seafloor.
“Many marine scientists are concerned that, once the first commercial contract for mining is issued, there will be no going back,” said Kathryn Miller, a co-author on the study.
“Before that happens, we should be absolutely certain that we have looked carefully at all the other options for a more sustainable future.”
The study recommends:
- Sustainability: Create a “circular economy” based on reuse and recycling, extending product lifespans and discouraging overconsumption.
- Monitoring: Robust monitoring and research of deep-sea ecosystems through an international ocean agency.
- Protection: Establish a coherent network of Marine Protected Areas.
- Transparency: Inform the global community, including all indigenous groups and small-island states, of the costs and benefits of proposed activity according to the United Nations convention stipulation that activities in the deep sea must be carried out for “the benefit of mankind”.
- Legislation: Strict regulations to prevent harm to ecosystems must be enforced by the regulatory body and be independently verified.
The study follows a previous paper that suggested seabed mining could do irreversible damage to deep-sea ecosystems.
The paper is entitled: “Seabed mining and approaches to governance of the deep seabed.” The paper is open-access and is available at https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00480
Learn more: Warning over deep-sea ‘gold rush’
The Latest on: Seabed mining
via Google News
The Latest on: Seabed mining
- Seabed-mining foes press U.N. to weigh climate impactson July 15, 2019 at 3:39 am
Want access to the top energy and environment news? Sign up for a free trial! Enter your email to register or log in. By signing up, you agree to receive E&E News email updates and offers. You also ... […]
- Date set for South Taranaki Bight iron sand mining battle to head to Court of Appealon July 12, 2019 at 10:42 am
A date has been set for the next chapter in the long-running battle for consent to mine iron sand from the South Taranaki seabed. It will be heard in the Court of Appeal in September. In August 2017 ... […]
- The fight for the seabed will shape our relationship with nature foreveron July 11, 2019 at 4:27 pm
The future of mining will unlock scientific discoveries… Mining the seabed for minerals is promising to become our imminent reality. The nascent industry of deep-sea mining is positioning itself as ... […]
- Greenpeace and seabed authority face off over ocean miningon July 5, 2019 at 7:26 am
London — The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has rejected criticism from Greenpeace over its handling of ocean mining, fueling a spat that threatens to overshadow talks this month by the UN body ... […]
- U.N. deep sea mining body rejects Greenpeace criticismon July 5, 2019 at 4:14 am
LONDON, July 5 (Reuters) - The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has rejected criticism from Greenpeace over its handling of ocean mining, fuelling a spat that threatens to overshadow talks this ... […]
- Deep-sea mining: world’s oceans facing a ‘new industrial frontier’on July 3, 2019 at 5:47 am
The British government holds licences to exploit more of the international seabed than any state apart from China. Mining can begin after regulations are agreed, with the ISA expecting to have ... […]
- Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’on July 2, 2019 at 10:00 pm
Unless we act now to protect them, deep-sea mining could have devastating consequences for marine life and humankind.” The licences, issued by a United Nations body, the International Seabed Authority ... […]
- In too deep: why the seabed should be off-limits to mining companieson July 2, 2019 at 10:00 pm
Deep-sea mining off the Papua New Guinea coast. ‘The damage won’t stay hidden in the depths. Toxic poluution could travel hundreds or thousands of miles.’ Photograph: Nautilus minerals When I was ... […]
- Greenpeace ship sets sail to highlight risk of mining below the waveson July 2, 2019 at 5:24 pm
Throughout July, work is under way at the U.N.’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston to establish regulation on mining the oceans. So far, regulations have only allowed exploration. ... […]
- Deep sea mining could destroy 'our last frontier', environmentalists sayon July 2, 2019 at 5:18 pm
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As India readies for the United Nations to give a green light to deep sea mining and boost its economy, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday ... […]
via Bing News