Arya Gunde • Aug 8, 2023
The deep sea has become the new frontier for humanity’s progression. As the world becomes more technology-dependent, the metals used to make electronics increase in demand.
Polymetallic nodules containing nickel, copper, and cobalt are found in large deposits on the ocean floor. Mining companies have recently shown an interest in extracting the nodules as an alternative to land mining and its consequences.
The nodules rest loosely on the ocean floor, making them easy to extract. The mining process involves sending a rover down to scoop the nodules up with a method similar to potato farming.
Climate activists raise the point that humanity knows very little about what effects deep-sea ecosystems have on Earth’s climate. Mining there will introduce noise, light, and dust to an environment typically void of any of them. Many organisms rely on specific deep sea conditions to survive, and mining is sure to disturb their habitat.
Governments, through the International Seabed Authority, are still drafting regulations to carry the practice out at scale. So far, all deep-sea mining has been unregulated. Canada recently revealed its stance on the issue by calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining until it has proper regulation, vindicating global activist efforts. A moratorium is a temporary suspension of activity until its issues are resolved. So far, twenty-one countries have agreed to a pause or ban on the practice.
Deep-sea mining is a truly international issue. For humanity, it’s a chance for genuine cooperation. Right now, the same people who run the environmentally devastating mines on land are looking at the ocean floor as yet another money grab. We’ve already seen the political instability this mentality has led to in places like Venezuela and The DRC for example. The last thing we need is for wars to be fought over who controls the ocean floor and for politicians to tell us how Aquaman has weapons of mass destruction that he plans on using to destroy the West.
Since the resources in the nodules are essential to the global supply chain, we should urge governments to distribute them equitably, benefiting humanity as a whole. While setting this up would require more time, it will give us a chance to develop a method of extracting the nodules that is harmonious with the Earth.
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