Your next car may be built with ocean rocks. Scientists can't agree if that's good

C C Offline

INTRO: Sprawling fields of rocks about the size of your fist coat the Pacific seabed. Below miles of ocean, these nodules burst with copper, nickel, manganese and cobalt, all key to building batteries for electric vehicles.

As the global push for electric transportation grows, these metals have converted a remote underwater plain into a battleground over the hard decisions required to address climate change. A nascent industry of deep sea mining is growing to harvest these rocks. The industry's first commercial mining applications may be filed in as little as two years despite incomplete regulations and unsettled science about mining's effects.

Industry proponents say deep sea mining is more environmentally friendly than land-based mining, making it the best option in the face of looming mineral shortages for electric vehicles and a tight timeline to decarbonize transit. Marine and climate scientists counter that there's scant data on the deep sea to gauge potential consequences for oceanic biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and that it would take decades of study to get a holistic assessment.

Because of such serious uncertainties, conservation groups, hundreds of scientists and some battery-reliant manufacturers are calling for a moratorium on deep sea mining. In March, BMW and Volvo Group, along with Samsung and Google, pledged to abstain from sourcing deep sea minerals.

It's a "sustainability paradox," says Kris Van Nijen, managing director of Global Sea Mineral Resources, a deep sea mining contractor for Belgium and Germany. "On the one hand, we have a whole world demanding we deal with climate change ... [but] there is not one solution that does not impact biodiversity that actually helps to mitigate climate change, because, in the end, we have to do something and we have to make choices."

The world does not have decades to decide how to handle climate change. And, when it comes to regulating deep sea mining, the international community may have even less time.

In June, the 8-square-mile, Pacific island nation of Nauru took the first step in launching the industry. It announced plans to submit an application for commercial extraction as early as 2023 to the International Seabed Authority, the organization overseeing deep sea mining. Such an application will be judged against whatever the deep sea mining rules are at that time — finalized or otherwise... (MORE)

Visualizing deep sea mining
Syne Offline
What? One leftist goal in direct opposition to another? 9_9

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