What’s Going On Here?
This week, we learnt that the largest mining operation in the history of our planet is about to begin; underwater in the Atlantic Ocean, off the West Coast of Africa.
What Does This Mean?
Deep sea mining has been talked about for decades, but until now it’s been deemed too risky to operate in the high-pressure, pitch-black conditions. However, as technology advances, dozens of governments and private ventures are now ‘diving in’.
It’s hard to visualise, but imagine opencast mining taking place at the bottom of the ocean, where huge remote-controlled machines excavate rocks from the seabed and pump them up to the surface.
Off the coast of Namibia, the De Beers Group fleet of specialized ships drag machinery across the seabed in search of diamonds. In 2018, their ships extracted 1.4 million carats; in 2019, De Beers commissioned a new ship that will scrape the bottom twice as quickly as any other vessel.
Why Should We Care?
In the past, little was known about the animals on the ocean floor. Most scientists thought the darkness and cold would make the deep sea uninhabitable, however we now know that the Earth’s oceans are teeming with life (Yeti Crabs get our vote).
No one can be entirely sure of the risks to these critters, but it’s widely accepted that whatever is in the path of the mining machines will be destroyed. Massive plumes of sand and silt are expected to suffocate marine life for kilometres far beyond the mining site.
Regulations for ocean mining have never been formally established. Mining companies may promise to extract seabed metal with minimal damage to the surrounding environment, but to believe this requires faith. Here is our ‘Stop Deep Sea Mining’ starter pack:
1) Keep them in the ground – Firstly, reduce your consumption of precious metals. Demand for silver, gold, copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt are the top offenders. It could be saying NO to the latest phone and sticking with what you’ve got or swapping diamonds for non-precious stones.
2) Go Fairtrade – If you do feel compelled to buy new, keep an eye out for that Fairtrade logo. Did you know that the Fairtrade Foundation isn’t just the globally recognised marker for Fairtrade food?
3) Keep the pressure on for enhanced regulation – Visit our friends at Blue Planet Society to stay in the know. While you are there, why not sign their petition to Michael Lodge (Secretary-General, International Seabed Authority)?