But, is enough being done to prevent harm to delicate seabed ecosystems?
Despite delays since 2008, Solwara 1, a deep sea mining project testing the potential of copper sulphides off the coast of Papua New Guinea conducted by Canadian underwater minerals exploration company, Nautilus Minerals, recently announced an expected 2019 start. With deep sea mining slowly moving closer to realisation, a recently published paper from the University of Exeter, UK, asks whether enough has been done to mitigate harm to ocean ecosystems, or even whether we need to tap into the sea’s mineral-rich landscape.The paper, An Overview of Seabed Mining Including the Current State of Development, Environmental Impacts, and Knowledge Gaps, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, explores the potential impacts including physical destruction of seabed habitats, large underwater plumes of sediment, and the impact of mining operations including increased temperature, chemical, noise, and light pollution.Lead author, senior Greenpeace scientist and honorary research fellow at the University of Exeter, Dr David Santillo, told Materials World, ‘It will be impossible to avoid all damage to deep sea ecosystems. The process of mining involves the physical removal of habitat, the resuspension of sediments, and the discharge of wastewaters. If mining is to go ahead, governments and society will have to accept that it could involve damage over a wide area that will never recover in a human timescale.’