Greenpeace International is warning the extinction of unique deep sea species and other significant irreversible environmental damage to oceans would be a likely result of an emerging trend to exploit seabed minerals.
A new report from the environmental activist group has found that the potential impact of deep sea mining is not properly understood.
“Mining could devastate biodiversity hotspots and endanger deep sea organisms as sediment waste and pollution from toxic heavy metals are discharged. This comes as only 3% of the world’s oceans and less than 1% of the high seas are protected, making them among the most environmentally vulnerable places on Earth,” Greenpeace said.
“Copper, manganese, cobalt and rare earth metals are found in or on the seabed and a growing number of governments and companies are developing deep seabed mining ventures for mineral exploration. Canada, Japan, South Korea, China and the UK are just some of the countries that have been granted contracts by the International Seabed Authority, which is holding its 19th session in Jamaica from July 15-26 where more applications will be considered.
“The International Seabed Authority Council has approved 17 exploration contracts to date for the seabed that lies beyond national jurisdiction in the deep seas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, compared with only 8 contracts in 2010.
“Commercial mining operations may start as early as 2016. There is also significant exploration interest within national waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, and one license to mine the deep seabed has already been granted in Papua New Guinean waters.
“‘We’re on the verge of a dangerous new kind of gold rush in our oceans,” protect the ecosystems that we all rely on for our survival,’ said Alicia Craw, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner.”