There may be merits to mining the seabed, but investing in alternative green technologies on land should be the priority
Deep-sea mining has become one of our planet’s most divisive problems. By stripping the ocean floor of its vast mineral wealth, proponents say we can obtain the cobalt, manganese, nickel and copper we urgently need for the green technologies – the electric vehicles, batteries and wind turbines – that must replace our carbon-emitting cars, power plants and factories. The only alternative to these deep-sea sources lies on land, where a huge expansion of mines would trigger environmental havoc: more sinkholes, devastated wildlife and polluted soil and groundwater. It is therefore time to plunder the riches of the deep to save our planet’s smouldering landscapes, it is argued.
These proposals are rejected outright by many scientists and green activists who say the colossal deep-sea dredging that would be involved in raising these minerals would trash swaths of ocean floor and wipe out precious, slow-growing animals and plants, while clouds of toxic sediments would be sent spiralling up from the deep, destroying marine food chains in the process. Deep-sea mining will only worsen our ecological woes, they maintain.