There are vast unexplored regions in the deepest reaches of the earth. There are ecosystems that developed untouched by human beings. The great underwater has creatures that do not know light.
According to a recent report in The Atlantic, the United Nations is working on formalities that will allow private companies to reach deep-sea mineral resources. As soon as a legal framework is established, these companies will invade the space and any slurry that comes from the mining process will collapse the deepwater ecosystem.
Companies could either dig up extremely rare and precious metals or nodules- easily scraped portions of rocks- that contain manganese, copper, cobalt, and nickel.
DeepGreen, one of the companies, claims that these nodules contain metals that are a requirement for modern battery technology. It believes that digging up these nodules could help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. But they do not talk about how this activity might affect the deep-sea ecosystems.
Even if the United Nations plans to wait another year to approve the project, expeditions have begun. As the equipment testing has already started, so has environmental damage.
Jeff Drazen, Oceanographer, University of Hawaii, said that this move will result in one of the biggest transformations to the planet surface in the history. This massive strip mine program will result in the loss of some habitats to the point of no restoration.
Access to the floors beneath the ocean will enable the mining companies to have within their grasp minerals, metals, and stones worth more than all the continents combined. It is an unimaginable quantity. The price is unimaginable too. Anything that the companies destroy in the process of reaching those minerals cannot ever be restored. Organisms that have never been discovered might become extinct. Ecosystems that might hold a key to the evolution of life on earth might collapse.
Only in the very recent past, the marine biologists came to realize the rich deep water fauna. After discovering life, 8000 feet underwater, that could survive without plants, the entire field was shaken up. So much of who we are, where we have come from, and if we are truly alone could be answered by these studies. These studies have allowed us to reevaluate life and the conditions it requires to exist as we know it.
It is unpredictable how many of these ecosystems will simply get buried if the mining procedures got sanctioned by the United Nations. As human beings, and the creatures with the most developed cognitive system, we are responsible to make the right decisions.
Featured Image: NASA