No Deep Seabed Mining | WWF
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No Deep Seabed Mining

Protecting the Seabed Before It's Too Late

There is widespread concern in the scientific community about deep seabed mining (DSM) and the irreversible impact it would have on delicately balanced deep ocean ecosystems. Economists are also projecting far-reaching consequences for the industries and communities that depend on a healthy ocean. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) – the agency that, paradoxically, is responsible for licensing DSM while also protecting the ocean from its impact – has proven itself unfit for purpose. We urgently need to change course, before irreparable damage is done.
Dangers of Deep Seabed Mining

Each deep seabed mining operation is expected to effectively strip mine 8,000 to 9,000 square kilometers of seabed over the course of a 30-year license – equivalent to an area a third the size of Belgium. 

Plumes of wastewater, sediment and residual metals discharged from ships during mining could flow hundreds of kilometers away from the mining sites. These plumes could impact ocean ecosystems at various depths. The metals they contain could prove toxic to some forms of marine life and could, potentially, get into the marine food chain.

Noise and light pollution could seriously disrupt species, such as whales and other deep-diving or deep-dwelling animals, that use noise, echolocation or bioluminescence to communicate, find prey and/or escape predators.

Scientists believe deep sea ecosystems may be as diverse as the world’s richest tropical rainforests. Discoveries about life here are providing new routes for medicine and clues about the beginnings of life on Earth. The test being used to diagnose COVID-19 was developed using an enzyme isolated from a microbe found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

The ocean is worth more than just the value of its finite resources. The intrinsic long-term benefits of a healthy ocean far outweigh any short-term incentives offered by deep seabed mining. Opening up this new frontier for extraction would destabilize delicate ocean ecosystems and fatally undermine the foundations of a circular ocean economy.

A Global Moratorium

The ocean is worth more than just the value of its finite resources. The intrinsic long-term benefits of a healthy ocean far outweigh any short-term incentives offered by deep seabed mining. Opening up this new frontier for extraction would destabilize delicate ocean ecosystems and fatally undermine the foundations of a circular ocean economy.
Growing demand for metals and minerals doesn’t have to cost the Earth. Alternative solutions already exist – a combination of innovation, recycling and repair can satisfy industries’ need for raw materials without opening the seafloor to mining. It doesn’t have to be a choice; the journey to a more sustainable future begins with a simple decision: No deep seabed mining.

A global moratorium on all deep seabed mining activities is urgently needed. Extraction must not go ahead until the environmental, social and economic risks are understood, and all alternatives to deep sea minerals have been explored. Then appropriate regulation will be needed to protect the marine environment and human well-being.

Calls for a moratorium are increasing, with local and international NGOs, community leaders, scientists, governments and fishers’ organizations leading the way. WWF is proud to take this stand for our ocean alongside a global coalition of individuals, businesses and governments. It is now a question of what reaches the ocean floor first: Protection in the form of a global moratorium, or the deep-sea bulldozers of DSM.

WWF is working across sectors to propose solutions:

» Businesses can source their materials through more conventional, less destructive means of extraction, and invest in innovation, recycling and repairability.

» Consumers can recycle their old phones, reduce consumption and investigate where their materials come from.

» Government can support a global moratorium on deep seabed mining and invest in the circular economy.

WWF