From: National Oceanography Centre
Published February 13, 2017 10:19 AM

Long-term impacts of deep-sea mineral mining

A new international study has demonstrated that deep-sea nodule mining will cause long-lasting damage to deep-sea life. This study, led by scientists at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), was the first to review all the available information on the impacts of small-scale sea-floor disturbances simulating mining activity. It found clear impacts on marine ecosystems from deep-sea nodule mining activities, which lasted at least for decades.

New sources of high-quality reserves of metals necessary for the modern world are now being sought, including the huge expanses of nodules covering significant amounts off the global deep sea floor. These nodules are potato-sized rocks, containing high levels of metals, including copper, manganese and nickel, which grow very slowly on the sea bed, over millions of years. Although no commercial operations exist to extract these resources, many are planned. The International Seabed Authority, who manage this area, have issued exploration licences across the central Pacific to a variety of countries, including the UK. However, exploiting these resources will have an environmental cost.

Dr Daniel Jones from the NOC, the lead author of the study, said, “the deep-sea is a remote, cold and dark environment kilometres below the surface of the ocean, yet it is home to a wide variety of marine life, much of which is very poorly understood. This research analysed all available studies on impacts to ecosystems in nodule areas and shows mining for nodule resources on the seafloor is likely to be highly destructive in the mined area, with long lasting impacts. We also think that these studies will underestimate the impacts of mining. Many would not even represent one month’s work for a full-scale commercial operation, which might last for twenty years.

Continue reading at National Oceanography Centre

Image of the seafloor in the abyssal Pacific showing nodules and large deep-water prawn (Bathystylodactyloidea). Image shows an area of seafloor approximately 50cm across.

Image courtesy of National Oceanography Centre

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