While digging up hydrothermal vents is understandably controversial due to their rich biodiversity, there is another method of mining the seabed that may be less harmful. Four thousand metres under the Pacific ocean in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, the vast, flat seafloor known as the abyssal plain is littered with potato-sized lumps of rock rich in minerals.
Mining company DeepGreen is keen to start harvesting these “polymetallic nodules”. They argue that doing so will be far less destructive than mining practices elsewhere, especially on land where minerals are increasingly hard to reach.
But should we really be opening up a whole new area of exploitation before we’ve done everything we can to properly recycle the metals we already have? And what of land-based mines – what will happen to them once mining begins on the ocean floor?