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Deep sea mining: Race to exploit the sea floor puts ecosystems at risk

Governments are meeting in Jamaica this week to decide how rules for commercial mining of metals on the ocean floor will be thrashed out, but there are big sticking points



Environment


| Analysis

8 December 2021

A field of manganese nodules in deep-sea waters near Hawaii.

A field of manganese nodules in deep-sea waters near Hawaii

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

The road to a controversial new era of commercial deep-sea mining is being decided this week by governments meeting in Jamaica.

Advocates say tapping mineral-rich, potato-sized nodules on the ocean floor will be essential to meeting the rising global demand for metals in electric cars and other low-carbon technologies, claiming it would cause less environmental harm than land-based mining. Critics say it will be devastating for marine life and habitats, and increase global supply rather than displacing conventional mining.

The UN …

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