The ocean floor can be a goldmine as it is full of minerals and metals, and companies line up to extract these metals and minerals from the depth of the oceans and seas. Now, a Greenpeace report says that the world’s oceans are facing threats more than ever in history from the possible deep-sea mining, a nascent industry which has not yet been established properly.
The Greenpeace report reveals that although no mining has started in the deep oceans, some 29 exploration licences have already been issued to companies and this exploration, when materialised would amount to an area five times bigger than the UK. Environmentalists apprehend that the proposed mining would not only have a devastating effect on the delicate marine ecosystem, but also the global fight against climate breakdown would be threatened.
An ocean campaigner at Greenpeace, Louisa Casson is quoted to have said—“The health of our oceans is closely linked to our own survival. Unless we act now to protect them, deep-sea mining could have devastating consequences for marine life and humankind.”
The licences are issued by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations affiliated body. The ISA has granted the licences to a handful of countries where private companies are sponsoring this project. The licences granted cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans totalling 500,000 square miles.
This deep-sea mining would require large machines lowered on to the ocean bed to excavate cobalt and other rare metals. The operations have the potential to deepen the climate emergency by disrupting carbon stores in the sediments of ocean floors and reducing the ability of the oceans to store it.
On the other hand, the advocates of these industries put forward the argument that deep-sea mining could be the way out for a green economy. The raw materials necessary for technologies like batteries, computers and cell phones extracted from deep-sea mining would have lesser harmful effect on the environment and workers than the existing mining operations.
But the report says, “The deep-sea mining industry presents its development as essential for a low-carbon future, yet this claim is not substantiated by actors in the renewable energy, electric vehicle or battery sectors. Such arguments ignore calls for a move from the endless exploitation of resources to a transformational and circular economy.”
The report urges governments to agree on a strong global ocean treaty in the next 12 months referring scientists and environmentalists who warned of the grave threat posed by the exercise of deep-sea mining.
According to the report, the UK government had the licences that amount for the highest seabed mining than any other governments. It also accused the UK government of positioning as a leader on marine protection while simultaneously investing heavily on deep-sea mining.