Deep-sea mining could make ‘largest footprint of any single human activity on the planet’ – by Kevin Douglas Grant (Global Post – December 19, 2013)

Honolulu, Hawaii is emerging as a hub for a race to extract billions of dollars worth of minerals from the ocean floor. Modern technologies like cell phones, laptops, wind turbines and hybrid vehicles all require rare minerals, often difficult and expensive to extract from the earth.

As demand for these kinds of products surges globally and more accessible deposits of those minerals are depleted, Civil Beat reported Wednesday, countries around the world are flocking to Hawaii to explore a vast undersea area believed to contain massive mineral deposits worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The area is called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, and organizations from countries including Japan, Great Britain, Russia, South Korea, China, France, Germany and the US are now using Honolulu as a departure point for exploration. Though the zone is just one of several in the sights of deep-sea mineral industry pioneers, researchers involved believe it holds great promise.

Their expeditions are mapping parts of the zone about 500 miles southeast of Hawaii, which covers a total estimated area of 6 million total square miles. The treasured minerals include “nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth elements with tongue-twisting names like praseodymium, ytterbium and neodymium,” Civil Beat reports, believed to lie among the ocean bed in the form of “polymetallic nodules.”

As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, “a team of Japanese scientists said that they found an estimated 80 billion to 100 billion metric tons of rare-earth deposits in the Pacific Ocean, or nearly a thousand times more than current proven recoverable onshore rare-earth reserves.”

“This mining, when it occurs, is going to be just massive in scale. It probably will have the largest footprint of any single human activity on the planet,” said Craig Smith, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, which is helping to facilitate exploration.

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