Deep Sea Mining: Mining the last frontier?

In the depths of the oceans we find ecosystems and species most of us can hardly imagine.

So far, these fragile ecosystems thousands of meters under sea level have been more or less untouched by humans, but now more and more companies have realized the value of the minerals found here.

While COP13 proceeds, you can use the new tool Deep Sea Mining Watch to follow some of the vessels prospecting, and already in early 2019 the Canadian company Nautilus Minerals is planning to start the first seabed mining operation in the world.

The plan is to use remote-controlled bulldozer-like vehicles to churn up the sea floor, suck up the finely grained particles and filter out what is wanted.

Marine scientists fear that unique biological communities will be destroyed, species yet to be identified become extinct, and fragile ecosystems take centuries to recover after being mined. In addition you have the question of what to do with the left over mining waste.

At the IUCN World congress this year there was massive support to ban the practice of dumping mining waste at sea from land based mining. This is a practice that most countries have moved away from, because of the environmental impacts. Only a few countries still allows it, most notably Norway, where opposition is also strong to save the fjords from mining waste.

By allowing deep sea mining, you also increase the pressure for dumping of mining waste to be allowed from vessels at sea, as this will be the cheapest and simplest solution for the mining companies to get rid of their waste. Deep sea mining, if allowed, will be a huge set back in the work to protect the marine environment from harm caused by the mining industry. Currently there are no international regulations governing deep sea mining, and the only sensible thing to do would be to put in place an international moratorium.

Skrevet av Jorunn Vallestad, Naturvernforbundet

På trykk i bladet ECO (volum 54, utgave 2), under toppmøtet (COP 13) i Konvensjonen for biologisk mangfold 5. desember 2016.