This week London is playing host to the 2013 Deepsea Mining Summit, a meeting of companies and investors that seek to go to the least known ecosystems of the world, at the bottom of our oceans, and rip it apart. Sounds a little crazy? We sure think so too…
The race to find metals for new technologies is bringing the mining industry off our shores and into sensitive marine habitats that are vulnerable to these kinds of extractive operations. Metals such as: cobalt, rare earths, copper and gold are what is on the menu as companies prepare to deploy industrial projects on the seafloor.
Witnessing the start of a new gold rush mentality, Greenpeace released a report last month that describes just how foolish it is for companies and governments to be on this path while protection for our oceans have not yet been put in place (less than 1% of oceans are protected).
As Canadians, we know too well about the environmental problems that come with mining operations on land, especially how difficult it is to contain the waste, so imagine the problems that will arise when mining operations are conducted in the deep sea in a fluid environment, where ocean currents may carry sediment and toxic pollution far from the area of operation, perhaps into important fishing grounds. Add to these impacts, the actual removal of key deep sea habitats, the smothering of sensitive marine species with sediment, the effects of noise pollution that is likely to disturb whales and other marine life and it is clear that seabed mining is a high impact industry.
The deep ocean remains an area full of mystery, scientists estimate that it would take another 10 to 15 years of research to properly understand its ecology and importance. In fact, so little is known about what lies at the bottom of our oceans that we currently have more detailed maps of the surface of Mars than we do of the seafloor. If seabed mining is allowed to go ahead without a comprehensive system of environmental protection in place we may be destroying species before even knowing what they are. Not only are these ecosystems unique on the planet, they are also teeming with potential for new discoveries that may lead to medicinal or other practical applications.
It is unlikely that many of the speakers at the Deepsea minng summit will be pointing to the scale of the potential environmental impacts or that at present there is no system in place to protect the marine life of the high seas, despite the fact that the world’s governments have long been committed to establish a global network of marine reserves. More likely they will be talking up the advances in technology and the potential short-term profits that can be made.
Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian company, will be present at the summit as it intends to become the first company to begin a deep sea mining operation in the waters of Papua New Guinea. If this project goes ahead it will have ignored environmental issues that have been raised and concerns from local communities that see the potential loss of their livelihoods.
Deep seabed mining projects threatens the livelihoods of coastal communities
In the Pacific, the region where deep seabed mining is being spearheaded, community groups opposed to seabed mining are springing up and significantly The Pacific Council of Churches has voiced its strong opposition to seabed mining . At the summit activists from the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and The London Mining Network will be leafleting and drawing attention to the aspects of the industry that the most of the summit attendees would most probably like to keep hidden beneath the waves. For too long industry has been able to do what it wants far out in international waters where “out of sight” has been “out of mind”. The job of civil society and groups such as those mentioned above and Greenpeace is to make sure that everybody knows what is really going on and what needs to be done to protect these remote, yet extremely important, places.
To help us fight this new threat to our oceans please sign-on to the petition to create global Marine Reserves: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/marine-reserves/marine-reserves-pledge/