Key Issue

Deep Sea Mining

Humans have extracted minerals and petroleum from the earth for generations. The time has come to weigh the risks and benefits and alternatives to proceeding to mine the deep seabed.

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Deep Sea Mining

Statement of issues

Humans have extracted minerals and petroleum from the earth for generations.

Our understanding of the impact of terrestrial extraction and mining on local biospheres has improved significantly and the costs of repairing any damaged caused has started to be factored into the decision to proceed or not.

The technology for doing so continues to develop and makes it possible to reach deposits in places never before exploited.

 

Our understanding of the biospheres in the deep ocean remains rudimentary at best.

The time has come to weigh the risks and benefits and alternatives to proceeding to mine the deep seabed.

The deep-sea floor – that part of the ocean averaging a depth of 4 km (2.5 miles) – covers half of the planet.

Despite its significance, the abyss remains poorly explored and it is often said we know more about the dark side of the moon. True or not, there is no question the deep sea remains poorly understood, not for lack of interest, but because of the sheer difficulty and expense involved in getting there. We no longer have the capacity to explore its deepest reaches as the vehicles that once brought us there are no longer functional.

Because of these difficulties, the deep sea has remained largely undisturbed. The deep sea floor has not been affected by human activity the way shallower areas have in our search for oil and gas, or even more mundane materials like sand and gravel.  However, the deep sea contains minerals, some of them in in unique or highly enriched concentrations, and some of them in huge quantities, and hence our need to understand the implications of harvesting these.

The first attempts to mine these deposits were hindered by legal uncertainties and technical constraints, along with financial projections that did not justify the enormous investments required.  Today, the legal uncertainties have been resolved, marine mining technology has advanced rapidly, and every rise in metal prices increases the commercial appeal of the deep sea.  But while the technological and commercial challenges are being met, little is known about the environmental implications.  It is easy enough to estimate the size of the deposits but figuring out how removing them would affect the deep sea, and even the ocean as a whole, remains largely unknown.

Humanity has an obligation to contemplate environmental harm before it has been inflicted.  We have a unique chance to determine the environmental effects of deep sea mining prior to authorizing it.  We owe it not only to ourselves, but to all the generations that follow ours.

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Organizations

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Organizations

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  • African Minerals Development Centre

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: Ethiopia
    Acronym: AMDC
  • Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

    Category: Academic
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Center for Oceans Law and Policy, University of Virginia School of Law

    Category: Legal And Policy
    Country: United States
    Acronym: COLP
  • Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards

    Category: Industry
    Country: Australia
    Acronym: CRIRSCO
  • Conservation Intnernational

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Convention on Biological Diversity

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: Canada
    Acronym: CBD
  • Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: DOSI
  • Category: Conservation
    Country: Netherlands
    Acronym: DSCC
  • Durham University’s International Borders Research Centre

    Category: Academic
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: IBRC
  • Earth Negotiations Bulletin

    Category: Press
    Country: Canada
    Acronym: ENB
  • Fish Reef Project

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Gallifrey Foundation

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Switzerland
    Acronym: N/A
  • Global Ocean Trust

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Germany
    Acronym: N/A
  • Greenpeace International

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Netherlands
    Acronym: N/A
  • Category: Academic
    Country:
    Acronym: N/A
  • Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

    Category: Academic
    Country: Germany
    Acronym: IASS
  • Intenational Ocean Institute 

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Malta
    Acronym: IOI
  • Interidge

    Category: Academic
    Country: France
    Acronym: N/A
  • Interional Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: United Nations
    Acronym: ITLOS
  • International Association of Drilling Contractors

    Category: Industry
    Country: United States
    Acronym: IADC
  • International Cable Protection Committee 

    Category: Industry
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: ICPC
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development – Reporting Services (IISD-RS) (publishes the Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

    Category: Press
    Country: United States
    Acronym: IISD
  • International Marine Minerals Society 

    Category: Industry
    Country: United States
    Acronym: IMMS
  • International Maritime Organization

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: IMO
  • International Policy Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Category: Academic
    Country: United States
    Acronym: MIT
  • International Seabed Authority

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: United Nations
    Acronym: ISA
  • Category: Conservation
    Country: Switzerland
    Acronym: IUCN
  • Legal and Technical Commission of the ISA

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: United Nations
    Acronym: LTC
  • Middlebury Institute of International Studies Center for the Blue Economy

    Category: Economics
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Nekton

    Category: Economics
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: N/A
  • nternational Dialogue on Underwater Munitions

    Category: Industry
    Country: Canada
    Acronym: IDUM
  • Oceans Unite

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: N/A
  • Oceans United

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United Kingdom
    Acronym: N/A
  • Sargasso Sea Commission

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Save the High Seas Coalition

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Netherlands
    Acronym: STHSC
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University Center for Polar and Deep Ocean Development

    Category: Academic
    Country: China
    Acronym: SJTU
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts

    Category: Conservation
    Country: United States
    Acronym: N/A
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Austria
    Acronym: TBA
  • UN Division for Oceans and Law of the Sea  

    Category: U.n. Agency
    Country: United Nations
    Acronym: LOS
  • World Oceans Council

    Category: Industry
    Country: France
    Acronym: WOC
  • World Wildlife Fund International

    Category: Conservation
    Country: Switzerland
    Acronym: WWF
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    Glossary

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    Plastic Pollution

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