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SOURCE: Science Alert and Frontiers in Marine Science

DATE: December 22, 2018

SNIP: As the world’s population scales to ever-greater heights, a growing demand for resources is driving humans to new lows.

Commercial seabed mining seems imminent, highlighting the urgent need for coherent, effective policy to safeguard the marine environment.

The three main seabed mineral resources of interest are cobalt-rich crusts, manganese nodules and seafloor massive sulfides. Within continental shelf areas, additional resources include phosphorites, ironsands and diamonds. No commercial deep seabed mining has yet taken place, but Nautilus Minerals and Diamond Fields International have obtained permits to extract minerals in the Bismarck Sea and Red Sea, respectively.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and Greenpeace are now warning that a deep sea “gold rush” for minerals and metals could wind up causing irreversible damage to what are already fragile ocean ecosystems.

“Many marine scientists are concerned that, once the first commercial contract for mining is issued, there will be no going back,” says co-author Kathryn Miller, a researcher at Greenpeace International.

The losses, the authors say, will be on a scale so great that much of this will be practically irreversible. Even if we wanted to, it would be expensive and extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these fragile areas to fully recover.