Deep sea mining targeted for environmental and social costs

By agency reporter
August 3, 2013

Citizens concerned about the risks of deep sea mining targeted the Deep Sea Mining Industry Summit last week, picketing the event at Cumberland Hotel in London.

Campaigners say deep sea mining will be made redundant due its negative environmental and social costs in contrast to an emerging and lucrative alternative – the “urban mining” of metals from electronic waste.

Richard Solly of the London Mining Network commented: “We have been highlighting to summit participants the risks of investing in this 'frontier' industry – not only is there strong opposition from civil society where ever its been proposed but its viability is highly questionable once the economic, environmental and social costs are weighed up.”

“A precautionary approach on environmental as well as economic grounds would demand a moratorium on this industry until the risks are assessed and analysed. We are still waiting to see a comprehensive risk analysis of deep sea mining,” he added.

Companies and governments from around the world have been rushing to explore and exploit minerals found in and on the seabed, such as gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earths.

Over 1.5 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean is currently under exploration licence to to private and national companies within both territorial and international waters.

There are currently 17 exploration contracts for the seabed that lies beyond national jurisdiction in the deep seas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. There is also significant exploration interest within national waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean

Natalie Lowrey of the Deep Sea Mining campaign added: “As a new form of mining there are many uncertainties about deep sea mining due to the lack of practical experience of the technologies and to the lack of knowledge about the unique properties of the ecosystems at the sites being mined.

“Serious concerns have also been raised about the potential for heavy metals entering marine food chains with serious consequences for the health of coastal communities,” she said.

Some $21 billion of silver and gold are locked away in e-products each year and electronic waste contains precious metal 'deposits' 40 to 50 times richer than ore mines.

Australian scientists have found that 1 tonne of old mobile phones contain about 100 kilograms of copper, three kilos of silver and 200 grams of gold.

According to Ms Lowrey, “Australian researchers have demonstrated that 'urban mining' of e-waste will become a reality over the next decade - a similar time frame to the operationalisation of deep sea mining.

“Urban mining will be more lucrative than deep sea mining and will deal with an otherwise intractable waste problem in a much more responsible manner”.

She concluded, “The expense and risks of deep sea mining cannot be justified while there is a profitable, socially and environmentally beneficial alternative to satisfy society’s needs for the same metals.”


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