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.