Deep sea mining risks to lead to irreversible and significant environmental impacts, scientists are warning. Luckily, there is a way out: much more careful and efficient use of metals would make deep sea mining obsolete.

The growing global demand for metals for use in mobile phones and renewable energy technologies is rapidly increasing the commercial interest in deep sea mining. Security of supply is also an important factor: many land reserves for metals are in countries with difficult regimes.

Potential deep sea mining sites are situated between 1000 and 6000m below the ocean surface, often in highly vulnerable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots. Scientists warn that deep sea mining may lead to significant and irreversible biodiversity loss.

In international waters, deep sea mining is governed by the International Seabed Authority, which issues exploration and exploitation licenses. Actual mining has not started yet: environmental regulation is still in the making. In the meantime, already over a million square kilometres is licenced for exploration in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

At the EU level, deep sea mining is a priority sector of the blue growth strategy, and is also part of the European Innovation Partnerships on Raw Materials.

Intrinsically linked to the exploitation of non-renewable resources, deep-sea mining also conflicts with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production and the EU’s circular economy ambitions.

Seas At Risk therefore advocates sustainable alternatives to deep-sea mining, such as a reduction in the demand for mineral resources through a circular economy, a transition to smart energy and mobility systems, and structural changes in consumption patterns and lifestyles.

More information

Leaflet: Deep sea mining? Stop and think! 

Statement for the Ocean conference, United Nations: Deep-sea mining has no place in a future shaped by the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

 

infographic deep sea mining SAR