A letter from experts newly published in Nature Geoscience warns that deep-sea mining missions may cause biodiversity loss that is ‘irrevocable.’ The loss of biodiversity in these regions is ‘unavoidable,’ according to the letter, and is something that must be taken into account when such missions take place. The effects of how the environment will respond to deep-sea mining is still a ‘tremendous uncertainty,’ according to one expert, underscoring the need for mining practices to include protection measures.
The burden is put upon the International Seabed Authority to manage these deep-sea mining missions when they take place beyond the bounds of any given national jurisdiction. It is important that the ISA ensure that both the public and UN member states understand the risks such mining practices pose, as well as necessary safety measures and possible standards designed to minimize the extent of these losses.
Talking about this, Duke University’s Nicholas School adjunct professor Linwood Pendleton said, “The extraction of non-renewable resources always includes tradeoffs. A serious trade-off for deep-sea mining will be an unavoidable loss of biodiversity, including many species that have yet to be discovered.”
The deep sea is still a vast unknown, harboring all sorts of bizarre — and at times terrifying — life that researchers are just starting to understand. Many, many deep sea critters are yet to be discovered, while others have only been spotted on rare occasions, not yet giving researchers adequate opportunities to study them. The loss of any of these creatures could be permanent if humans aren’t careful.
Despite the risks, deep-sea mining operations continue as humans seek out rare elements and metals used in a variety of applications. Though there will only be 27 deep-sea mining contracts in place this year, it represents a major uptick compared to past years. Failure to establish safeguards now could mean major damage to biodiversity in the future.