Japan’s Grand Plans to Mine Deep-sea Vents

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Galathied crabs, shrimp, graze bacteria on vent mussels (NOAA)
Galathied crabs, shrimp, graze bacteria on vent mussels (NOAA)

Martha Henriques for the BBC | 7 January 2019

Off the coast of Okinawa, a slim stretch of land among Japan’s southern Ryuku islands, thousands of metres below the surface, there are the remains of extinct hydrothermal vent systems scattered about the ocean floor.

The minerals at these long-dead former vent sites are now gaining attention due to increasing international interest in deep-sea mining. Just one of these deposits is thought to contain enough zinc to supply Japan’s demand for a year. For a country that imports the vast majority of its mineral resources, seafloor sulphide deposits are seen as a tantalising potential domestic alternative. But there is a high price: disrupting these sites through mining could put unique and fragile ecosystems at risk.

Read the full article here: Japan’s Grand Plans to Mine Deep-sea Vents.