Environmental organizations oppose the practice of deep-sea mining leading up to a critical United Nations conference.

Environmental organizations called for a suspension of deep-sea mining, as a United Nations meeting in Jamaica approaches where there are concerns that the first permit to extract minerals from the seabed will be granted.

Over 20 nations have requested a prohibition or temporary halt on deep-sea mining before the start of a 12-day conference held by the United Nations International Seabed Authority. Corporations such as Samsung and BMW have also committed to refraining from utilizing minerals extracted from the depths of the sea.

According to Sofia Tsenikli, a member of the Netherlands-based Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, sea mining is a critical environmental concern due to the fact that the deep sea is one of the few remaining untouched regions of our world.

The rise in popularity of eco-friendly energy sources, such as electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines, is creating a need for metals like copper, nickel, and cobalt. Mining companies claim these metals can be obtained from depths of over 600 feet (180 meters) below sea level.

According to a market review published by the International Energy Agency in July, there was a three-fold increase in demand for lithium from 2017 to 2022. In the same time period, cobalt experienced a 70% increase and nickel saw a rise of 40%.

The mining industry claims that extracting minerals from the deep sea is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to land mining. However, experts and environmental organizations contend that only a small fraction of the world’s deep seas have been studied, and they caution that deep sea mining could result in disruptive noise, light pollution, and harmful dust storms.

Bobbi-Jo Dobush, a representative from The Ocean Foundation, a nonprofit organization in the United States, stated that this has the capability to devastate the remaining untouched areas of Earth and put our primary carbon storage at risk. Additionally, it has not proven to be a viable option either technically or financially.

The International Seabed Authority, responsible for governing deep international waters, has granted over 30 licenses for exploration. According to Emma Wilson of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, China holds the highest number of licenses at five, with a total of 22 countries being granted such licenses.

A significant amount of research is concentrated in an expanse called the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, which covers 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) from Hawaii to Mexico. The exploration is taking place at depths of 13,000 to 19,000 feet (4,000 to 6,000 meters).

There have been no temporary permits granted for mining, but there is concern among scientists and environmental organizations that pressure from certain members of the International Seabed Authority and its secretariat to implement a mining regulation by 2025 may alter this.

According to Wilson, the institution’s existence is dependent on the start of mining activities, as it will be funded through royalties from mining contracts.

The officials stated to The Associated Press that their duty is to safeguard and govern, and that their choices reflect the desires of member nations.

The ISA clarified that it is not advocating for exploitation. Member states of the ISA have decided that mining will not commence until regulations are established for economic exploitation and environmental preservation.

The governing body has stated that it is making sure current discussions are based on the most reliable scientific information. In addition to its 169 members, the authority also considers input from over 100 observers, including non-governmental and civil society organizations.

The governing body is currently discussing guidelines and requirements for a potential mining policy, however, any corporation has the opportunity to request a mining permit at any point.

Source: wral.com