Research on deep-sea biodiversity partly supported by GOBI has recently been the focus of much attention, both in the scientific press and in mainstream media, as it is pertinent to the emerging industry of deep-sea mining for mineral resources. Targeted minerals are used in the manufacture of computers and portable communication devices (phones and tablets). Whilst still under development, the technology to enable deep-sea mining is advancing faster than the international laws and regulations required to oversee that mining is done fairly (most mineral resources are located in areas beyond national jurisdiction) and with as little environmental impact as possible.
In a letter to the editor of Nature Geoscience (left) published this week, a consortium of scientists, international law experts and conservation champions argue that the established processes to minimise biodiversity loss in terrestrial and offshore mining activities fail when applied to the deep ocean. They recommend instead that the focus and goal of any nascent regulatory mechanism for mining in the deep sea should be to avoid and minimise harm to deep-sea biodiversity. Most mining-induced environmental impacts in the deep sea are likely to last for several centuries, given the very slow natural rate of recovery in affected ecosystems. The biodiversity and function of the deep sea ecosystem are very poorly known, so to damage them irreparably without appropriate regulation seems imprudent at a time of global environmental uncertainty.
Click here to see mainstream media coverage of this topic (not supported by GOBI).