How Deep Sea Mining Affects Marine Wildlife
They say that when something is out of sight, it’s out of mind. Unfolded laundry is a great example. It’s easier to leave unfolded laundry in the dryer than in a visible pile on your bed. This is because it’s out of sight, so it’s out of mind. This is the same mindset we often have for challenges facing the planet. Deep-sea mining, for example, may feel like a faraway problem. However, the products that require minerals from deep-sea mining are things within your grasp, things we use everyday.
What is Deep Sea Mining?
So how does deep-sea mining work? Hydraulic pumps mine at mineral deposit sites at the ocean’s floor, usually near hydrothermal vents. The minerals commonly sourced through deep sea mining include: cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese. These are all necessary for energy storage such as batteries. Cell phones, cars, and laptops are 3 common items that require batteries. Without these four minerals, there is a need for an alternative way to power our devices.
Impacts of Deep-Sea Mining
Deep-sea mining is the practice of removing mineral deposits from the ocean floor for human use. The term deep sea means all parts of the ocean below 200 meters. Naturally formed mineral deposits are ripe for the picking. All the work we need to do is in the extraction and purification. Traditional mining on land has depleted its mineral levels. It has also led to the investment and over exploitation of our oceans to find more minerals.
Understanding the effects of deep sea mining requires more research and time. The potential impacts are concerning enough to warrant more study. For example:
Loss of Habitats
Deep-sea mining could endanger entire species that exist nowhere else on the planet. The mining machines reaching the ocean floor can destroy entire habitats. This directly impacts food chains and nutrient cycles that start in the depths of the ocean. If one ocean species goes extinct, it can directly affect countless other species that rely on them.
The water that is being pumped back into the ocean causes sediment plumes. This means that sediment on the seafloor is disrupted and becomes suspended in the water. The sediment affects many organism’s vision, migration, and overall health. Picture this: you are standing on a dirt road and some cars do donuts around you. All of the dust the cars cause is from the dirt on the road being pushed up into the air. The dust would make it hard to breathe and see. In air, sediment settles at a predictable rate, in the deep ocean: it does not.
Marine animals do not communicate in the same ways we do, they rely on vibrations and hearing. These vibrations help marine life find prey, predators, mates, and where they are going. Shipping vessels cause vibrations near the ocean’s surface, but deep sea mining affects the depths of the ocean. This can directly affect all marine life within the levels of the mining. The effects could be devastating, as it can disturb entire ecosystems.
What Should We Do About It?
We can all work to limit our personal battery usage. Every state has laws for disposal of batteries, but remember you can recycle your batteries no matter where you are. Making the switch to rechargeable batteries is another great alternative. Companies like Panasonic have developed a number of rechargeable batteries that are long-lasting and recyclable.
We can also follow the path of Jeremy McKane, an artist and CEO of OCN.ai, focused on ocean conservation. His mission at OCN.ai is to educate and conserve the worlds oceans. He is calling for a 10 year moratorium to do research on the effects of deep sea mining. To make this possible, more people and organizations need to work together to advocate for the moratorium. As McKane puts it, “Something isn’t noise anymore if everyone is saying it.” He reminds us that we vote not only in elections, but with our wallets. Our shopping habits directly impact the products and practices of businesses and corporations that turn to deep-sea mining.
As a society we also have a tendency to buy the newest phones as soon as they hit the market. Our habit of doing this supports companies in continuing to release new phones, thus creating a market for batteries. We should work to use our phones until they no longer work, and remember to properly recycle them. Let’s start making sustainability trend!