Companies back moratorium on deep sea mining in ‘sustainability’ row

Posted: April 4, 2021 by oldbrew in Batteries, Emissions, net zero, Politics, Travel
Tags: , ,
deepsea

Deep sea mining illustration [image credit: youtube]

Deep sea mining supporters argue along the lines that the ocean floor is such a big place that scraping a few bits of it won’t matter on a global scale. Is this a row between the haves and have-nots, as limited supplies on land of the required materials are fought over?

—–

A long-running dispute over plans to start mining the ocean floor has suddenly flared up, reports BBC News.

For years it was only environmental groups that objected to the idea of digging up metals from the deep sea.

But now BMW, Volvo, Google and Samsung are lending their weight to calls for a moratorium on the proposals.

The move has been criticised by companies behind the deep sea mining plans, who say the practice is more sustainable in the ocean than on land.

The concept, first envisaged in the 1960s, is to extract billions of potato-sized rocks called nodules from the abyssal plains of the oceans several miles deep.

Rich in valuable minerals, these nodules have long been prized as the source of a new kind of gold rush that could supply the global economy for centuries.

Interest in them has intensified because many contain cobalt and other metals needed for the countless batteries that will power the electric vehicles of a zero-carbon economy.

What’s the problem?

Claudia Becker, a senior BMW expert in sustainable supply chains, tells me what led the car giant to decide against using deep sea metals.

“It’s the fear that everything we do down there could have irreversible consequences,” she said.

“Those nodules grew over millions of years and if we take them out now, we don’t understand how many species depend on them – what does this mean for the beginning of our food chain?

“There’s way too little evidence, the research is just starting, it’s too big a risk.”

It’s that lack of detailed research, which only began in earnest in recent years, that convinced BMW to support campaign group WWF, which is leading the push for a moratorium until more is understood.

Ms Becker says that mines on land, although plagued by allegations of child labour, deforestation and pollution, can at least be inspected and held to high standards.

“With those mines we do understand the consequences and we do have solutions but in the deep ocean we don’t even have the tools to assess them.”

She believes that deep sea mines can be avoided by turning to alternative, less damaging metals, designing batteries that require fewer minerals in the first place and developing a circular economy with far better recycling.

Full report here.

Comments
  1. JB says:

    “It’s the fear that everything we do down there could have irreversible consequences,”–Claudia Becker

    Since when did mega corps begin being altruistic, having greater concern for the environment than the sustainability of the corporation? The entire environmental debacle exists because of corporate greed. Such mendacity. There is a correlation to Hanlon’s Razor here.

    “…in the deep ocean we don’t even have the tools …” speaks the truth of the business.

    Follow the respective currency.

  2. Kip Hansen says:

    Again, the wacky Precautionary Principle raises its hoary head. There is no possible irreversible harm from mining very small areas of the ocean floor (except extremely locally). It is he same stupid argument used against landfills — they are ugly and hard to do right — ignoring that they are far better than spreading the trash evenly all over the landscape.

  3. oldbrew says:

    BMWBLOG says: BMW Electric Cars Will Be Free of Rare Earths from 2020 on
    August 1, 2019

    The fact that BMW will be able to offer EVs free of rare earths will be quite an achievement. That will be possible once the fifth-generation of electric powertrains is launched. That’s scheduled for 2020, when the world debut of the BMW iX3 is scheduled to take place.

    https://www.bmwblog.com/2019/08/01/bmw-rare-earths/

    So what’s this about?

    Claudia Becker, a senior BMW expert in sustainable supply chains, tells me what led the car giant to decide against using deep sea metals.

  4. Gamecock says:

    The sea anemone to replace the polar bear as most oppressed species.

    ‘Rich in valuable minerals, these nodules have long been prized as the source of a new kind of gold rush that could supply the global economy for centuries.’

    Gold rush? The paradox is that abundance reduces value.

    ‘Those nodules grew over millions of years and if we take them out now, we don’t understand how many species depend on them – what does this mean for the beginning of our food chain?’

    Butterfly effect presumed. Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

  5. oldbrew says:

    EVs will be for the few not the many in world terms…

    Just for the 32 million EV batteries in the UKs:

    — Copper – more than 50 percent of the world’s annual production
    — Cobalt – 200 percent of its annual production.
    — Lithium carbonate- 75 percent yearly output
    — Neodymium – nearly 100 percent of its entire annual production

    One can easily see that the world may not have enough minerals and metals for the EV batteries to support the EV growth projections roadmap when you consider that today:
    Combined worldwide car sales in 2019 were more than 65 million vehicles annually.
    There are 1.2 billion vehicles on the world’s roads with projections of 2 billion by 2035.

    https://papundits.wordpress.com/2021/04/04/no-silver-bullet-on-energy/
    – – –
    What the rest are supposed to do goes unanswered, or is bad news for them.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Deep sea mining to help make electric vehicles

    As the world begins to move away from petrol and diesel-power cars, there are questions over how the metals needed for batteries in electric vehicles will be sourced.

    One possibility is to mine the deep ocean floor. A number of companies are lining up to exploit the minerals found there, but campaigners warn it could have a disastrous impact on the marine environment.

    The BBC’s Chief Environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, reports. [short video]

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/science-environment-56678976

    Polymetallic nodules ‘just sitting there like golf balls on a driving range’.

    The largest of these deposits in terms of nodule abundance and metal concentration occur in the Clarion Clipperton Zone on vast abyssal plains in the deep ocean between 4,000 and 6,000 m (13,000 and 20,000 ft). The International Seabed Authority estimates that the total amount of nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone exceeds 21 billions of tons (Bt), containing about 5.95 Bt of manganese, 0.27 Bt of nickel, 0.23 Bt of copper and 0.05 Bt of cobalt.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese_nodule

  7. Appointed in 1996 member of the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority, UN. (http://www.isa.org.jm). About 20 of us worked hard to produce an acceptable mining code for the expoitation of deep sea mineral resources. During the five years that I was an active member of the Legal and Technical Commission we wrote up a comprehensive set of rules, that everytime met with opposition by national political member (ambassadors, etc).

    When my 5 years was running out as a representative of Finland I was so frustrated that I resigned from the task, because the possibility to reach a proper agreement and mining code for deepsea minging outside the various national areas of jurisdiction, i.e. the area designated by the UN as the common heritage of mankind.

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