Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ocean Mining Licks Its Chops

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Last year, deep ocean mining sounded an alarm by a woman who knows more about ocean life than most.  This week the New York Times gave us an unsettling update. 

Although the story appears balanced, the overall feel is like being blasted by some feverish gold rush bullhorn, hair blown back, ears ringing.

The undersea fire is stoked with talk of "trillions of dollars" and "bonanzas" and the gauntlet is thrown with comments like "It's first come, first get". 

The rush here is so palpable I can almost see the oceans already trampled.

When has surface mining ever favored nature?  How are mining companies going to treat the thousands of unknown species in a technologically-challenging undersea environment?

This isn't trace amounts either -- this is digging up thousands of tons of earth from the seabed, which serves as home to many creatures we hardly understand.  History shows that even the smallest creatures are important to the overall ecosystem and the health of the oceans.  It seems there are many questions.

What kind of mining wastes will be dumped back into the sea?  Will we even know what's really going on out there with underwater mining operations in international waters in the middle of the vast ocean?

Less Rush More Thought 

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign, a group putting the ocean before the gold, advocates for caution and full assessments before mining -- less rush more thought.  But their voice seems drowned out by the bullhorn.

Everyone is watching Nautilus mining company as they are the most aggressive, unfortunately aided by the people who found the Titanic, Odyssey Marine Exploration, and backed by the biggest economy in the world -- China.  They're going after places all over the planet starting with a site near Papua New Guinea; such sites are full of sea life.

Cindy Lee Van Dover,  a marine biologist at Duke University, asks us to hang on and apply the precautionary principle -- to defer "wholesale commercial mining" of the seabed until conservation plans are in place, according to the Vancouver Sun.

In the cross hairs
Seems like the big players cannot hear her voice over the rapacious sounds of collective chop licking.

The International Seabed Authority, which has jurisdiction over mineral resources in international waters, has also received applications for mining exploration of other sea-floor deposits.  The China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association has its sights on the Southwest Indian Ridge, and Russia has applied to work on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, according to the story.

This is a good fight. As Van Dover said, "There are creatures of extraordinary beauty down there, exquisitely adapted to their environment." 

Read the full Vancouver Sun story here.

No comments: