Ocean Mining Has Harmful Environmental Costs
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As a society, we’ve become dependent on many minerals, fossil fuels, and other substances. While the use of these things improves our lives in many ways, they aren’t available in unlimited quantities, meaning that the day will come when they simply won’t be available.
Even more alarming is the increasing toll these minerals are taking on the environment. One start-up company, DeepGreen, hopes to use ocean mining to locate cobalt, nickel, and copper. The irony is that these minerals would be used for the creation of lithium batteries for electric vehicles, which are supposed to be eco-friendly cars.
DeepGreen and EV batteries
Even careful ocean mining could be dangerous for the environment
While many drivers are attracted to the idea of electric vehicles, they’re ultimately turned off by the extremely high purchase price. According to Fossbytes, the reason EVs are so expensive is the batteries which account for one-third of the overall vehicle cost. Many businesses are exploring different ways to make the batteries more affordable.
A mining seabed startup called DeepGreen Metals Inc. is dedicated to mining the minerals the lithium batteries require.
Since the supply and demand of these minerals influence the speed and cost of the EV batteries, it stands to reason that a new mineral supply would do wonders to lower the cost of the vehicles, which would mean more on the road, which would be better for the environment. Right? Maybe not.
Some of the eco-experts who have looked at DeepGreen Metals’ plans are expressing concerns. They worry that the company’s mining methods could do more harm than good.
DeepGreen’s plans for ocean mining
DeepGreen has plans to extract potato-sized rocks that contain massive amounts of nickel, cobalt, and copper from an area that’s about 13,000 feet below sea level. While the idea of using these mineral-rich rocks seems like a good idea, the depths that they’re located at make it impossible to send a few divers to the bottom of the sea with a basket to pick them up.
Bringing those rocks to the surface will require heavy equipment and the disruption of the seabed. It’s also unclear how deep the company would have to drill.
“The only path to sustainable metals is to build up enough metal stock to shift away from mined to recycled metals,” Dan Porras, the company’s head of communications and brand, said in a statement that Bloomberg published. “Our stated objective is to inject enough primary metal stock into the system to enable this shift…and exit primary extraction as soon as possible.”
While the DeepGreen team is confident about their ability to bring up plenty of the mineral-rich rocks EV batteries require, they appear unconcerned about the amount of ecological damage their efforts could do.
Concerns about DeepGreen’s ocean mining plan
It’s no secret that it’s impossible to do any type of mining without somehow disrupting the environment. What we don’t know is the kind of long-term potential damage mining a seabed could do to the ecosystem.
DeepGreen claims that there isn’t anything down there that could be harmed.
“It’s a very deep, dark, very monotonous kind of place,” the company’s chief ocean scientist, Greg Stone, said in a 2019 podcast interview. “We’re not talking about vibrant coral reefs, we’re not talking about herds of tuna or whales. The longer-term disruption, if you can even call it that, would settle down certainly within months.”
Scientists are quick to point out that we know so little about the sea-bed in the region, so we have no actual idea of how much potential damage the mining could do.
Recently, a group of 300 different scientists released a Deep Sea Conservation Coalition statement speaking out against DeepGreen’s plans to mine the deep seabed. They aren’t asking for the company to completely discontinue their plans, but to rather pause their plans “until sufficient and robust scientific information has been obtained.”
Considering the potential ramifications of what deep-sea mining could have on the environment, doing a little more research seems reasonable.
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