“The search for raw materials to feed the all-powerful Sarlacc of capitalism is pushing industries to increasingly remote and alien environments. One of the most exciting frontiers to emerge of late is the deep ocean — rife with valuable metals such as copper and zinc, as well as the rare Earth elements that drive our smartphones and computers. But as humanity’s interest in plundering the deep of its riches heats up, scientists are warning that this new gold rush will have serious consequences.
In a letter published in Nature Geoscience today, marine scientists from roughly a dozen universities — including two who have received research support from deep ocean mining company Nautilus Minerals — argue that if the deep ocean is opened up to mining, a loss of biodiversity is “inevitable” and “likely to last forever on human scales, given the very slow natural rates of recovery in affected ecosystems”. The authors call for caution in green-lighting any efforts to mine these delicate ecosystems, emphasising that the public has to have full knowledge of the implications and risks.”