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Earth Science Technology

Cautious Steps Toward Seabed Mining (maritime-executive.com) 97

mdsolar writes: The deep ocean was once assumed to be lifeless and barren. Today we know that even the deepest waters teem with living creatures, some of them thought to be little changed from when life itself first appeared on the planet. The deep ocean is also essential to the earth's biosphere. It regulates global temperatures, stores carbon, provides habitat for countless species and cycles nutrients for marine food webs. Currently stressed by pollution, industrial fishing, and oil and gas development, these cold, dark waters now face another challenge: mining. With land-based mineral sources in decline, seabeds offer a new and largely untapped frontier for mineral extraction, and companies are gearing up to mine a treasure trove of copper, zinc, gold, manganese, and other minerals from the ocean floor. Scientists, regulators, and mining companies are now collaborating on frameworks and strategies for mining the seabed responsibly. Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory and chair of the school's Division of Marine Science and Conservation, says that's encouraging, given that seabed mining appears to be inevitable.
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Cautious Steps Toward Seabed Mining

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  • History has shown that "responsible mining" is an oxymoron, with Centralia, Love Canal, and many other Superfund sites being examples of this.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Love Canal wasn't a mining site. And speaking of "responsible", Superfund is a demonstration that other parties can be colossally irresponsible as well.
      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @04:02PM (#51673621) Homepage Journal

        Love Canal wasn't a mining site.

        Thank you, Captain Obvious. However I think the poster's point may have been that it's been historically difficult to hold corporations responsible for the messes they leave behind, and when you can't do that it means the public has to pay to clean them up.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Thank you, Captain Obvious.

          No, such things aren't obvious unless you know the history of Love Canal [wikipedia.org]. It wouldn't have been difficult for the poster to google relevant examples. Such sloppiness is instead an indication of how little thought the poster put into their post.

          However I think the poster's point may have been that it's been historically difficult to hold corporations responsible for the messes they leave behind, and when you can't do that it means the public has to pay to clean them up.

          Let us recall here the fundamentally illegal aspect of Superfund, namely, punishing a party for legal activity (often as other posters have noted with the Love Canal case, exacerbated by another negligent party after the pollution occurred). If the public wants legal

    • by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @03:18PM (#51673265)
      Centralia wasn't so much a product of the mine, but the fact that some genius decided to use ground immediately above an exposed coal vein (in an old strip mine pit, no less) as a landfill and BURN PIT, even after they were aware of the danger. This is a case of stupid people doing stupid things, not an actual mining disaster.
    • They don't mean responsible in practice, they mean responsible sounding greenwash to flood the corporate media with.

  • Human greed... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @02:57PM (#51673105) Homepage Journal

    Human greed will destroy us all. Sooner of later, these mega-corporations are going to discover that you can't eat money -- but of course by then it'll be too late. Even now, we deny what's happening globally.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Says the guy using a pile of rare earths and polymers to emote all over the internets.

    • I predict this will not happen.
    • Unfortunately my desire for Schadenfreude is greater than my desire for survival. I just hope I'm there to see the faces of those who run the mega-corporations when they realize that it is too late so that I can receive my satisfaction at their misfortune.

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Go look up the largest mine in the world. Then zoom out a bit.
    • You're using a computer, the internet, presumably wearing clothes that were manufactured who knows where. We all participate in this. In some ways it's not possible not to do so.
  • by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @02:58PM (#51673111)
    Just dig a giant frickin' pit mine at the bottom of the ocean. You're welcome.
  • The ocean is big. I mean huge. Massive. A little mineral exploration isn't going to harm it at all. And as for land based deposits it would be more accurate to say that most easily mineable deposits are being used up- there are still many, but things like rocks, national parks and civil wars get in the way.
    • The ocean is big. I mean huge. Massive. A little mineral exploration isn't going to harm it at all.

      The first question that comes to my mind is what effect all the sediment that gets kicked up will have on the rest of the ocean? A little bit of activity can cast quite a lot of fine silt into the currents, which will travel far outside the confines of any mining area.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is that a relatively small amount of toxins can kill a lot of animals. Look how mercury is a global menace to fish, similar with plastics, and both were caused by people. An oil spill like what happened in the Gulf of Mexico can destroy an entire ocean.

      As for huge, we can do huge... the Pacific Gyre is already the size of the United States.

      Instead of destroying a food source and possibly ourselves... how about better recycling? Miners would have a lot better yield going through a town dump th

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        So how do you mine? By dumping a barrel of toxins overboard or something? You have been suckered by a mdsolar submission! BURN.
    • The ocean is big. I mean huge. Massive. A little mineral exploration isn't going to harm it at all.

      True, but if it's profitable they won't be planning on doing just a little. I'm all for it, but a bit of thinking about it ahead of time and some sensible regulations could head off a huge number of unnecessary environmental impacts.

    • The ocean is big. I mean huge. Massive. A little mineral exploration isn't going to harm it at all.

      Nonsense The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back would indicate otherwise. The ocean is big but it's also fragile in a lot of ways. It wouldn't be hard at all for us to cause some pretty catastrophic damage. We've already filled good portions of it with plastic and we're adding more daily. We've affected the temperature of the oceans and in some places the salinity. We've created massive dead zones thanks to agricultural runoff. The notion that the oceans are so big we can't harm them is

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      The atmosphere is big. I mean huge. Massive. A little CO2 emission isn't going to harm it at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From about 1970-74, the CIA managed to convince the world that billionaire inventor Howard Hughes had decided to invest millions to mine “manganese nodules,” balls of heavy metals that lie on the ocean floor. It was a cover story for the ship Glomar Explorer to recover a soviet nuclear submarine from the bottom of the north pacific.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      They may be serious about this time, technology especially robotics have come a long way since those days. Of course it could also be another cover. I'm thinking another impressive cover by the Navy was construction of a rescue sub to rescue crew of a "downed" submarine. These things were outfitted with latest technologies of all kinds of stuff (most had little to do with rescue). It's real purpose was to tap undersea cables, Navy pretty much ruled out submarine rescue because most ocean areas are so deep,

  • Except actually, it's not really inevitable. What is? That if we mine the seabed, we will fuck it up.

  • Fortunately I dislike all seafood, so it's all good. /s

  • Let's just use the nuclear radiation that pours over the earth incessantly. We're already almost as good at it as we are at burning through our finite resources. Where could we be if all the money dumped into fossil fuels was used for renewables?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Where could we be if all the money dumped into fossil fuels was used for renewables?

      At home, burning trees and manure for heat.

      Oh, wait, you mean now that we've already built societies on the availability of oil and coal? When we've had decades of the luxury of using different extracts from various crude oil sources for everything from lubricating doors, to powering cars, to fertilizing farmland?

      We already are advancing "renewable" adoption as quickly as the things can get mass produced. One of the major factors limiting solar adoption (as the big example) is that the tech level that has

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      This is talking about mining mineral resources as opposed to fossil fuels. I'm not sure how we're going to use the Sun to make in-ground resources more plentiful than they already are. :/

      I mean, you don't *have* to read the summary or anything but it kind of helps. I suppose I could be misreading it but I decided to double-check my reading. I don't think I'm missing anything. I did not, of course, read the article. I'll read the summary but the article is right out. I am no heretic.

  • But, if, like First Solar, you want to use CdTe instead of silicon, looks like your raw materials are also unconstrained.
  • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Thursday March 10, 2016 @07:41PM (#51675027)
    But I can's see how "hoovering" huge swaths of ocean floor would not be extremely destructive to ecosystems unless they just did thin stripes that never touched areas where there was significant diversity or complexity in the distribution of that diversity. These larger more monotonous areas could be revisited on a time scale that allowed the complete recolonisation of the mined areas from the untouched areas, then another strip of the untouched area could be mined. The problem is that you can't trust the mining companies to decide where and when to mine and when to wait or stay away permanently. If they find an area is particularly rich in resources they will bias their research to allow it to be mined at the expense of protecting the biological diversity in the area.

    However they could bore a vast network of tunnels 1 km or more below the ocean floor without having much impact on the biosphere. However they are not interested in that because of the costs, and the fact that they are really just after the rich nodules on the surface of the ocean floor, nodules that may have formed in part due to biological processes.
  • Bull Pucky (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 )
    We can not even regulate the harm done by commercial fishing which is much easier to observe and regulate. We certainly can not control oil spills nor contaminants from runoff from our rivers and rainfall. So now I am supposed to believe that we can effectively regulate deep ocean mining which pretty much equals dredging the deep ocean bottoms. We can't even deliver lead- free drinking water to Flint. And now there is concern over lead pipes all over our nation. But worse yet the public is not awa
    • On rivers and streams in the US, the Clean Water Act provides tools the control pollution.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      We can not even regulate the harm done by commercial fishing which is much easier to observe and regulate. We certainly can not control oil spills nor contaminants from runoff from our rivers and rainfall. So now I am supposed to believe that we can effectively regulate deep ocean mining which pretty much equals dredging the deep ocean bottoms. We can't even deliver lead- free drinking water to Flint. And now there is concern over lead pipes all over our nation. But worse yet the public is not aware of how much asbestos water pipes supply home drinking water as well as water used and sold as bottled water. So I say Bull Pucky to the entire notion of ocean mining.

      I suppose we could just not regulate deep sea mining. I'm sure that will go better.

  • Lets see how good of an idea they think it was after they dredge up some prehistoric radioactive dinosaur with an appetite for Japanese food.... or cities.
  • ... but if we develop the tech, the Chinese will use it to rape the ocean floor like they rape the fisheries.

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