Seafloor Mining : Environmental Concerns – UPSC GS3

Polymetallic nodules:
  • These are rocks that are rich in cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, rare-earth elements and titanium.
  • The Pacific basin is thought to contain more than 30 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules
  • Scientists and entrepreneurs have been researching methods of extracting them since the 1960s.
  • In 1994, the International Seabed Authority was established to regulate mining efforts and protect the seabed environment.

Challenges in seafloor mining
  • The seafloor is arguably the least resilient ecosystem on the planet.
  • In 2017, a report commissioned by the UK government warned that seabed mining could lead to the “extinction of unique species which form the first rung of the food chain.”
  • The damage wouldn’t be confined to the ocean floor. Plumes of sediment will have a dire effects on sea life accustomed to clear water.
  • Further, the plumes might also include toxins that can pass on to Fishes.
  • The plumes might also reduce the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon—or even release stored carbon into the atmosphere—thereby worsening climate change.
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