While there is an increasing understanding that more mining is needed to meet the mineral needs of the energy transition, there is strong disagreement over the role of deep-sea mining.
Few countries countenance the idea of mining within their own territorial waters, but there is a growing queue of companies and state-owned entities seeking permission to exploit mineral reserves in international waters.
Such activity would fall under the purview of the United Nations’ International Seabed Authority (ISA), which currently oversees exploration activity in international waters. This year, the ISA is considering new regulations that would govern the exploitation of minerals, and pave the way for deep-sea mining.
Proponents argue that the world needs the critical minerals deep-sea mining would recover.
Opponents counter that our world’s ocean ecosystems are already under too much pressure from global warming, dead zones, garbage patches, microplastics and overfishing. That up to 90 per cent of the ocean remains unexplored and largely unknown, and a moratorium on mining is needed until we understand our ocean environments better.
We need a successful mining industry to drive the energy transition and fight climate change. But, it will be harder for the industry to build the workforce or community support it needs to succeed, if a segment of the industry becomes likened to whalers and trawlers, in being seen as putting our oceans further at risk.
This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.