The Metals Company, a Vancouver mining company, wants to suck mineral-rich nodules from deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.
But local ocean experts say that’s a terrible idea.
“The ocean is one system,” says Bodhi Patil, a B.C.-based youth advisor to prominent ocean health organizations. “Nothing operates in isolation. That’s why deep sea mining is an incredible threat, because not only will mining the seafloor create huge mineral plumes, it will really damage some of the biodiversity that we depend on for our very survival.”
Patil was part of a protest this weekend against deep-sea mining. He joined more than 100 delegates attending IMPAC5, a global oceans conference taking place in Vancouver, to raise awareness of the practice.
They marched up Howe Street and demonstrated outside the headquarters of The Metals Company, the mining firm seeking to exploit minerals beneath the ocean’s floor.
The company, formerly known as Deep Green, says the critical metals it mines can be used for electric vehicles and batteries.
Its CEO Gerard Barron says he’s “on a mission to wean the planet off fossil fuels and transition to a circular resource economy” by recovering and recycling enough nodules to put onshore miners out of business.
But Patil and the others who joined him aren’t buying it. “Deep seabed mining, from an economic viewpoint, makes zero sense,” he said.
Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer at Large and a former Chief Scientist of NOAA, explained during a separate event at IMPAC5 that “we need lithium and cobalt….but there’s an illusion that these are just dead rocks waiting to be scooped up.”
“The bacterial action that makes it possible for accretion of minerals on them took millions of years, yet we think they’re there for us to take and use for new purposes,” she said. “We don’t need to disrupt the ancient systems at the bottom of the sea.”
Ocean conservationists are demanding Canada join the campaign to ban deep-sea mining.
The International Seabed Authority, the only body able to regulate seabed mining, must decide by July if it will continue the current worldwide moratorium on the practice or allow seabed mining to proceed.
The organization has already granted a subsidiary of The Metals Company an exploratory licence to mine in the Clipperton Fracture Zone southeast of Hawaii. In November, TMC’s machinery marched for 80 km across the seafloor more than four kilometres beneath the surface to hoover up more than 3,000 tonnes of nodules as part of an “environmental research” project.
Hundreds of international scientists and countless environmental organizations have joined the call for a ban. France has imposed its own ban in all its economic zones.
“We’re going to be able to stop this,” Patil says.