What’s going on here?
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) missed an important deadline last week to agree exploitation regulations for deep-sea mining. The UN authority is now racing to finalise them or find another plan before the mining industry starts applying for exploitation permits.
What does this mean?
The missed deadline means companies could rush to the ocean floor to dig up minerals and metals for the green energy transition with fewer environmental safeguards. That’s because if a company applies for a permit before the ‘Mining Code’ is finalised, the ISA must still review the application. And if this sparks a gold rush of the seas, scientists warn of ‘large-scale, severe and irreversible harm to global ocean ecosystems’.
Why should we care?
Deep-sea mining supporters say it could help meet growing demand for metals needed for the batteries we use in electric cars and renewable energy storage. But scientists say we know too little about deep ocean ecosystems to know how mining will impact them. And research suggests the ecological impacts are worse than initially believed, says Nature.
The science journal published a piece last week that explores just how bad deep-sea mining could be. It tells of how clouds of sediment whipped up by mining, or waste tossed back into the sea, could pollute the waters and damage fishes’ gills. One piece of 2020 research highlighted by Nature reveals how almost half of ‘active swimming animals’ like fish and shrimp have fled areas directly affected by mining.
- Get more detail about the exploitation regulations in this news report
- Our May piece about environmental monitoring touched on the deep sea – have a read of ‘I can show you the world… with satellites and citizen science’
- Add your name to this open letter and say no to deep-sea mining