The “new global gold rush” over deep-sea mining holds the same potential pitfalls as previous resource scrambles, with environmental and social impacts ignored and the rights of Indigenous people marginalised, a paper in the Harvard Law Review has warned.
A framework for deep-sea mining – where polymetallic nodules or hydrothermal vents are mined by machine – was first articulated in the 1960s, on an idea that the seabed floor beyond national jurisdiction was a “common heritage of mankind”.
But exploration has gathered momentum in the past three years, with licences granted off Papua New Guinea’s coastlines, and successful mining off Japan late last year. The International Seabed Authority, which is drawing up a draft mining code, has issued 29 exploration contracts for undersea mining in international waters beyond any national jurisdiction.
Proponents argue deep-sea mining could yield far superior ore to land mining – in silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc – with little, if any, waste product. Different methods exist, but most involve using some form of converted machinery previously used in terrestrial mining to excavate materials from the sea floor, at depths of up to 6,000 metres, then drawing a seawater slurry to ships on the surface.
The slurry is then “de-watered” and transferred to another vessel for shipping. Extracted seawater is pumped back down and discharged close to the sea floor.
For the rest of this article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/deep-sea-mining-possibly-as-damaging-as-land-mining-lawyers-say