Can Mining the Seabed Help Save the Planet? – by Christopher Pala (Foreign Policy – November 7, 2021)

The solutions to climate change—solar panels, windmills, electric cars—seem so blissfully clean and also within reach. Yet they also require vast amounts of minerals: cobalt, manganese, copper, nickel, and rare earths. Electric cars, for instance, are made with about six times more minerals than conventional vehicles, and such staggering amounts simply aren’t available now. Not on land, anyway.

Parts of the ocean seabed, lying some 15,000 feet deep, are littered with the stuff. Black, potato-sized lumps called polymetallic nodules can be found in great volumes on the oceans’ muddy bottoms. The nodules contain large amounts of copper, manganese, nickel, and cobalt, as well as other minerals in smaller amounts.

Extracting the nodules would ease the pressure for mining on land at a time when ore yields are falling and environmental and social costs are rising. If it can be done efficiently and at scale, mining the seabed could lower the cost of electric vehicles, increasing their sales and slowing emissions.

“We have a renewables transition that has to be done to combat climate change, and the window is less than 10 years to keep things under 2 degrees Celsius,” said Steve Katona, a marine biologist and ocean mining consultant.

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