With the annual meeting of the International Seabed Authority due to close, concerns have been raised about the world’s first deep sea mining project that is due to begin in two years’ time in waters off Papua New Guinea.
Former Chief Scientist for the US Government National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dr Sylvia Earle has described the project as “an invisible land grab” in a National Geographic opinion piece, stressing that too little is known about ocean systems and processes to warrant their destruction.
Dr Earle contrasts the building-size mining machinery that has been heavily invested in by company Nautilus Minerals, with the absence of resources for independent scientific assessment at deep sea levels. She comments: “The rationale for exploiting minerals in the deep sea is based on their perceived current monetary value. The living systems that will be destroyed are perceived to have no monetary value. Will decisions about use of the natural world continue to be based on the financial advantage for a small number of people despite risks to systems that underpin planetary stability – systems that support human survival?”
Much rests then on the International Seabed Authority’s decision to proceed, its regulatory framework, and more importantly, its capacity to regulate and exercise authority. Dr Earle hopes the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September will serve to generate suitable and timely actions towards preventing further destruction to the planet.
Dr Earle was former Chief Scientist for the US Government National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is Founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, and has directed numerous organisations including Oryx Energy, The Conservation Fund, and Rutgers Institute for Marine Science, to name a few. Her opinion piece can be accessed via: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/21/deep-sea-mining-an-invisible-land-grab