Deep sea mining isn’t worth the risk

A new study attempts to measure the unfathomable risk deep sea mining could pose to our oceans--and planet.


Deep under the waves of the western Pacific, this umbrella of sponges and deep sea coral provides a home for a wide array of ocean life.

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The deep sea is one of the most mysterious places in our solar system. While we have been sailing across the surface for centuries, only in recent decades have we developed the technology to begin to understand the life so deep down it never sees sunlight. It’s an alien world, one of great beauty and whose importance for life on this planet we are just beginning to understand.

But if the nascent deep sea mining industry gets started, we may never have a chance to learn the secrets of the deep.

A red sea star rests on manganese basaltic rubble on the seafloor.Photo by NOAA OER | Public Domain

Deep sea mining would see companies strip the Pacific floor of “nodules” of minerals, ostensibly to support renewable energy.

This untested operation would disturb sea life that is incredibly long-lived and slow-growing. Some coral discovered in the region have been proven to be thousands of years old, while the nodules themselves provide the only toehold for smaller ocean life in the vast savannah of the sandy-bottomed ocean.

A commentary, published in the journal Ocean Sustainability, attempts to weigh the pros and cons of deep sea mining. The conclusions are clear:

“From the delicate habitats on the seafloor to the sensitive, long-lived, slow-growing organisms in the deep sea, potential damages to be caused [by deep sea mining] could be permanent and irreparable.”

Restoration of even 30% the habitats that could potentially be mined– a type of restoration that is untested and therefore not guaranteed to succeed–would cost more than all of the defense budgets in the world. In comparison to the cost to the deep sea and the planet, the short-term profits made by a few companies seem trivial.

From reduction to reuse to recycling and more, there are better ways to designing our products and our energy systems that don’t pose immeasurable and irreparable harm to ocean life.

Let’s develop those sustainable solutions, and make sure deep sea mining never starts.

If you want to help block deep sea mining, you can sign our petition below, calling on Congress to support a moratorium on mining in U.S. waters.


Kelsey Lamp

Director, Protect Our Oceans Campaign, Environment America

Kelsey directs Environment America's national campaigns to protect our oceans. Kelsey lives in Boston, where she enjoys cooking, reading and exploring the city.

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