Deep-Sea Mining and the Environment: An Introduction
Seafloor minerals, many of which occur in the deep ocean in international waters, have attracted significant attention due to the discovery of deposits with high metal grades and large volumes, in addition to the growth in global demand for strategic metals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, and rare earths. Furthermore, much of the world is recognizing the need to transition to a clean energy, low-carbon economy, and to do so requires metals used in clean energy infrastructure and technologies, metals such as manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt (World Bank 2017), the same metals found in, for example, polymetallic nodule deposits. This has led to several entities obtaining exploration contracts for areas of the seafloor governed under international regulations and developing technologies for their extraction. At the same time, environmental groups have raised concerns over the possible environmental impacts of deep-sea mining on seafloor and deep-sea ecosystems. This chapter provides an overview of the general environmental issues and concerns being raised in relation to deep-sea mining, introduces some of the mechanisms being put in place to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment, and raises pertinent questions that are being or will need to be addressed as the deep-sea minerals industry moves forward into reality.
KeywordsDeep-sea mining Environmental issues Sustainable development
The maps showing exploration areas for minerals in different oceans are from the website (www.isa.org.jm) of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Jamaica. The permission granted by ISA to reproduce these maps is gratefully acknowledged. Tables 1 and 2 have been compiled by Ms. Farida Mustafina, student of POMOR program at St. Petersburg State University, Russia, during her internship at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India.
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