SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A U.N. agency tasked with regulating the deep sea is debating whether to open the Earth’s watery depths to countries and companies that as of Monday were allowed to start applying for provisional mining licenses.
The International Seabed Authority, based in Jamaica, launched a two-week conference on the issue Monday, a day after it missed a deadline to approve a set of rules and regulations to govern deep sea mining in international waters. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Juan José González, the authority’s council president.
The authority has issued more than 30 exploration licenses but no provisional licenses — so far. The debate on whether to allow companies to extract precious metals from the deep sea that are used in electric car batteries and other green technology comes as more than a dozen countries call for a ban or moratorium given environmental concerns.
Scientists have said that minerals in the deep sea take millions of years to form, and that mining could unleash noise, light and suffocating dust storms. However, companies have argued that deep sea mining is cheaper and has less of an impact than land mining.
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