Posted on 09 February 2021
WWF research outlines likely impacts of deep seabed mining on ecosystems and biodiversity, and risks of allowing industry to proceed.
The destructive impacts of mining the deep seabed for metals and minerals such as cobalt, lithium and nickel on deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity could have knock-on effects on fisheries, livelihoods and food security, and compromise ocean carbon and nutrient cycles, the report warns. Given the slow pace of deep-sea processes, destroyed habitats are unlikely to recover within human timescales. This WWF report argues that too many unknowns and gaps in ocean science, policy and industry innovation remain for any deep seabed mining activities to be allowed to take place.
WWF, as well as many other organisations, political leaders and scientists, is calling for a global moratorium on deep seabed mining
unless and until the environmental, social and economic risks are comprehensively understood; all alternatives to adding more minerals into the resource economy are exhausted; and it is clearly demonstrated that deep seabed mining can be managed in a way that ensures the effective protection of the marine environment and prevents loss of biodiversity.
The report further highlights that marine ecosystems are connected, and many species are migratory. Therefore, deep seabed mining cannot occur in isolation, and disturbances can easily cross jurisdictional boundaries. Negative effects on global fisheries would threaten the main protein source of around 1 billion people and the livelihoods of around 200 million people, many in poor coastal communities.
The potential value of deep seabed mining has been estimated at US$2-20 billion -- a fraction of the much more valuable sustainable ocean economy, which annually generates a conservatively estimated US$1.5-2.4 trillion, benefiting many States and coastal communities.
WWF promotes a transformational change to a Sustainable Blue Economy that provides social and economic benefits for current and future generations; restores, protects and maintains the diversity, productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems; and is based on clean technologies, renewable energy, and circular material flows.