An emerging ‘gold rush’ based on deep seabed mining might result in unparalleled harm to fragile deep-water ecosystems. Significant international action on the future of deep seabed mining is awaited by the end of 2020, and researchers and policy-makers from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace have advocated for a number of preventive measures to protect the environment.
According to the scientists, deep-water ecosystems currently require additional protection, not new hazards. They also contend that deep-sea mining (below 200 meters) might be prevented entirely if humanity turn to a “circular economy” that centers on the reuse and recycling of metals, reduction of reckless consumption of resources, and the limitation of the technological obsolescence.
“Our growing demand for minerals is driving this ‘gold rush,'” said David Santillo, a marine biologist and senior Greenpeace scientist based at Exeter University. “Should we allow seabed mining, with the risk it poses to deep-sea ecosystems, or should we focus on reducing this demand for virgin minerals,” he asked.
New “Gold Rush,” The Seabed Mining, Might Affect Deep-Water Ecosystems
“Deep waters are outside the jurisdiction of any state, and we need more united global governance to prevent biodiversity loss from human activities,” said Kirsten Thompson, a marine biologist at Exeter University and co-author of the study. “Some areas selected for seabed mining are known to be hot spots for biodiversity, including habitat for endemic corals and shark nurseries,” the researcher added.
The study, issued in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, revealed the general state of the current regulations and their potential impact on deep-water ecosystems, with the goal of encouraging broader discussions ahead of the International Seabed Authority’s final ruling to permit commercial seabed mining in a new “gold rush.”
“Many marine scientists are concerned that once the first commercial contract for this type of mining is issued, there will be no turning back. Before that happens, we must be absolutely certain that we have carefully examined all the other options for a more sustainable future,” Kirsten Thompson concluded.
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