Can We Mine the World’s Deep Ocean Without Destroying It? – by Richard Schiffman (Yale Environment 360 – June 15, 2023)

The U.N. body charged with regulating deep-ocean mining will soon consider whether to permit the first project to move forward. But ecologist Lisa Levin, who has long studied the deep sea, worries that in the rush for key minerals, a pristine and important ecosystem will be lost.

Few people know the deep ocean as intimately as Lisa Levin, an ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Not content with doing pure science, Levin, who has participated in more than 40 oceanographic expeditions, founded the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative, a global network of more than 2,000 scientists, economists, and legal experts that seeks to advise policymakers on managing the ocean’s depths.

Of particular concern to Levin now is the prospect of deep-sea mining. The tiny island nation of Nauru has notified the International Seabed Authority on behalf of its Canadian partner, the Metals Company, of its intent to seek a permit to mine in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a 1.7- million-square-mile region of the Pacific where polymetatallic nodules are scattered that have high concentrations of cobalt and other valuable minerals.

The ISA, formed by the U.N. in 1994, is required to issue mining codes that would regulate deep-sea mining by July 9. If it fails to do so, some scientists and environmentalists fear that an controversial rule may allow mining to begin nonetheless. While Levin told Yale Environment 360 that she doubts we’ll see it happen this year, she too worries that pressure is mounting to start mining soon.

Mining companies argue that land-based sources for these metals are running out and that they are critically needed for green technologies like producing batteries for electric vehicles and manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines.

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