Report calls for caution on sea floor mining until information is obtained about disruption

AN international panel warned that mining the sea floor should not proceed until more information was obtained about its impact on the environment.

Citing a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), Reuters said mining could harm as yet unidentified species. The report, authored by six academics, said deep seabed mining was a “sustainability conundrum”.

“If mining was to go ahead with the current state of knowledge, species and functions could be lost before they are known and understood,” the authors wrote. Trawling the sea floor is likely to disrupt ecosystems about which there has been scant research, as they are very difficult to reach, the report said.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body headquartered in Jamaica, has drawn up regulations on exploration, but has yet to establish the rules for exploitation needed for mining to go ahead.

Environmentalists including Britain’s David Attenborough have called for a ban on deep-seabed mining that would extract resources including copper, cobalt, nickel, zinc, lithium, and rare earth elements from nodules on the ocean floor.

“The rush to mine this pristine and unexplored environment risks creating terrible impacts that cannot be reversed,” said Attenborough in an article by the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “We need to be guided by science when faced with decisions of such great environmental consequence,” he said.

His comments follow the publication of a study by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) which warns of “potentially disastrous” risks to the ocean’s life-support systems if mining of the sea-bed proceeds.