Race to the Bottom: Deep Sea Mining Is the Next Frontier – by Christina Lu (Foreign Policy – June 26, 2022)


The untapped trove of metals on the ocean floor might be the key to a greener future—or an environmental catastrophe.

To power the energy revolution, nations have stripped their lands for the metals crucial to build everything from Teslas to wind turbines. The hunt for cobalt has left a trail of pollution and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while Zambia’s copper mining industry has poisoned nearby rivers. In nickel-rich Indonesia, mining has generated enough runoff to dye the country’s waters red.

Many countries have now set their sights on a new market: the deep ocean floor. These depths potentially hold an untapped trove of metals—nickel, cobalt, copper, and manganese—tucked into polymetallic nodules, potato-shaped deposits that are millions of years old. Mining these riches, they say, is the key to a greener future. Some are already fiddling with the lock.

Last June, Nauru, a small Pacific nation with a history of mining disasters, triggered a little-known legal clause that effectively started a two-year countdown for deep-sea mining to begin in international waters. With the clock ticking, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the body responsible for regulating the industry, now has just over a year to finalize guidelines for what could be the world’s biggest mining opportunity.

The problem is that nobody knows for sure what the costs of such a venture would be—and not just the economic costs. Many experts warn that rushing forward with deep-sea mining could unleash an industry that inflicts irreversible environmental harm, disturbing fragile habitats and even wiping out species that have yet to be identified. At this point, they say, more time is needed to understand the risks of mining—and what could be lost.

For the rest of this article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/06/26/deep-sea-mining-climate-change-energy-environment/