The Arab states of Sudan and Saudi Arabia are going ahead with their plans to start mining for gold, copper, silver and other riches along the Red Sea basin by 2014.
The original pact failed to materialize at the time due to a major fall in global ore prices by the early 1980s, but recent hikes in commodity prices and high demand from emerging economies have renewed interest in exploiting deep-sea metal deposits.
The article argues that the deep-sea mining boom is not good news for the Red Sea, as it would add problems to the already-beaten water source:
The Red Sea is suffering innumerable environmental disasters from increasing sea temperatures, to oils spills, to decimating endangered species sometimes through unnecessary aggressive cultural practices, to waste disposal, to exorbitant construction ideas and monster bridges.
Oxford Business Group agrees. In a report to investors published at the end of January, the consultants say the environmental impact of undersea mining in the area will have to examine the delicate ecosystem both on the seabed itself and in the waters above it:
Extensive investment would need to be made before extraction could begin, too. Some estimates put project set up costs at hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the potential profits on offer, far more money would have to be ploughed into the venture to take advantage of whatever undersea mineral wealth does exist.
One of the main ventures, the copper and gold Atlantis II project, is already underway and counts with the participation of Canadian Diamond Fields International (TSX:DFI), which received a license in 2010 to explore the area about 115 kilometers west of Jeddah.
The company is conducting a study on whether the project can be carried out safely and profitably and what the full extent of the deposits could be.
Previous studies have suggested that the undersea deposits could yield up to $8 billion or more worth of minerals, including gold, copper, zinc and silver.
Sudan, which is boosting production of gold and other minerals to increase state income and foreign currency, said it expects to produce around 50 tonnes of gold this year, earning $2.5 billion. If successful, the nation would become Africa's third largest gold miner behind South Africa and Ghana.
(Image: Boats in the corals of Red Sea, By Kallerna)