Mining is a leading economic activity for humans. For years , mining has served the purpose of retrieving all sorts of naturally occurring materials from the earth. Through out the centuries , both precious and industrial materials have been excavated from the surface of the earth. However, due to the looming depletion and high demand for these naturally occurring materials, mining corporations have moved to seek new surfaces to extract them. The solution lies in deep sea mining.

What is deep sea mining?

Deep sea mining , also referred to as seabed mining, the next frontier in mining. Despite being in its experimental stages, seabed mining is the extraction of naturally occurring material, either by dredging or any other potent method, from the ocean floor. The ocean floor covers over 60 percent of the earth’s total landmass. In the advent of seabed mining, natural materials such as sand have been teh target for mining corporations. Sand is very useful in construction and filling of beaches.

Potential impacts from deep-sea mining
How deep sea mining is done

However, in the recent maritime studies, ocean floor have been found to be rich in high value minerals. These minerals include, copper, nickel, aluminium, manganese, zinc, lithium and cobalt. In the recent and booming demand for smart devices, these metals have high application in the creation of mobile devices and other equipment such as solar panels, turbines and batteries.

On the other hand , deep sea mining has been used to harvest marine organisms that are been used for experimental purposes. For instance, the deep sea sponge Latrunculia austini, has been previously harvested to be used as treatment for pancreatic cancer by the the Medical University of South Carolina and Henry Ford Cancer Center in Detroit.

The Impact of Deep Sea Mining

There has been a huge demand for deep sea mining as technology corporations need more and more raw materials to construct your favorite device. Nonetheless, the diminishing inland minerals are pushing corporations to seek alternatives not only in deep sea but also in the moon!The rush to acquire the best mining siites has been so heated such that  International Seabed Authority (ISA) has offered over 30 mining contracts. These contracts give the corporations the mandate to extract all materials they need.

In light of this , More than 1.5 million kilometer square of international seabed , roughly the size of Mongolia , have been set aside for mineral exploration in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as shown below

Deep-sea mining activities within the EEZs of countries and in ABNJ
Commissioned Deep sea mining locations

Deep sea mining has direct impact on both marine ecosystem and biodiversity. Here are some of the major impacts of deep sea mining;

  • Pollution

Deep sea mining will be one of the leading causes of pollution in the oceans after plastic. The mining vessels will likely pollute the water through waste , accidental spills and the physical destruction of ocean beds. Furthermore, the vibrations and noise from all the machinery will cause noise pollution making it more difficult for sea creatures to survive.

Since, these mining dredgers use fossil fuels such as diesel to run, there is a potential of toxic effluents reaching the ozone while contributing to the increase in green house emissions.

Nonetheless, the increased human interaction with marine life is likely to introduce new organisms that may cause death of the natural inhabitants. The pollution will disrupt the ecosystem which may be fatal for both humans and marine life.

  • Pluming of Sediments

The mining machinery is likely to cause disturbance of the ocean floor. The disturbance will cause sediments to rise creating sediment plumes. These sediments include clay, silt, organism remains and even plastic! The sediment plumes will cover the ocean floor as it has not been determined how they will disperse. This will cause a visibility and obstruction problem for the marine animals.

  • Destruction of the Ocean Floor

This the ultimate impact of deep sea mining. The mining utilises various methods  that can use extreme suction , excavation and removal of material. These methods will not only damage the marine habitats but also the physical bed.  Since most under sea animals are endemic, their death will mean the extinction of species that may never be regenerated again in future.

Also, for instance in the case of sand mining , erosion is a factor. Large scale mining will cause erosion of sand as a void is created after massive extraction. This has been especially observed in the  Port  of Waikato, which  has lost 20 metres of dunes in the last 20 years. While the cliffs of South Taranaki have been receding dangerously for many years. Both in New Zealand.

Why sea beds need saving

Ocean floor make about 65 percent of the earth’s total land mass. The vast area has the most astonishing geological features. These features include the hese include abyssal plains 3,500–6,500 m below the sea surface, volcanic underwater mountains known as seamounts, hydrothermal vents with bursting water heated by volcanic activity, and deep trenches such as the Mariana Trench, which at almost 11,000 m is the greatest depth registered in the ocean.

These areas have been out of human reach for centuries and consist of unique species that can only survive in such conditions. Infact, many of teh geologicla features and species are unknown to humans and have continued to baffle scientists for years.

Deap sea mining will damage these virgin areas and risk the loss of  unknown species. Therefore necesary mitigation factors should be put in place to safe guard teh rich marine geology and ecology.