Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

David Attenborough Calls For Ban on Deep-Sea Mining

Oceans
International Monetary Fund / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sir David Attenborough wants a ban on deep-sea mining.


The 93-year-old conservationist spoke out in an interview with Sky News Thursday in conjunction with a new report that warns of the potentially devastating consequences of extracting metals and minerals from the deep places of the ocean. The practice could harm biodiversity, limit the ocean's ability to support life and even disrupt its ability to store carbon, worsening the climate crisis.

"We should not go in and trash an area of the globe about which we know hardly anything until we've done the proper research - in short we want a moratorium against action of industrialising the deep-sea," Attenborough told Sky.

The report Attenborough backed was published by Flora and Fauna International (FFI) Thursday, a conservation group of which Attenborough serves as vice president. It comes as there is growing interest in deep-sea mining, defined by FFI as mining below 200 meters (approximately 656 feet), as deposits of minerals used in batteries and mobile phones are discovered, The Guardian reported. The international rules governing the new practice will be decided at a meeting of the UN International Seabed Authority in July.

While the impact of mining above 200 meters is well understood, science has yet to learn much about the deep ocean, making it difficult to assess mining's impacts there. The FFI report is the first to seriously consider the risks of the practice, and it drew some troubling conclusions.

Deep-sea mining could:

  1. Disturb pristine ecosystems
  2. Create far-reaching plumes of sediment that could kill marine life far from the mining site
  3. Kill microbes in sediments and hydrothermal vents that reduce methane and carbon
  4. Disrupt the ocean's "Biological Pump" that distributes nutrients and sucks carbon out of the atmosphere
  5. Expose deep-sea life to toxic metals
  6. Worsen ocean acidification through the mining of sulphide deposits on the seafloor

The risk of such impacts in a little-understood ecosystem is why Attenborough is joining FFI in calling for a ban on the practice.

"Whatever you do please do the science before you go in and destroy - because that's what it is - mining is a polite word, mining also means destruction. Destruction of an ecosystem of which we know pathetically little," he told Sky.

FFI acknowledged that deep-sea mining is sometimes portrayed as part of the solution to the climate crisis, because it is a potential source of many metals needed for lithium-ion batteries. However, Director Pippa Howard wrote that the risks associated with the practice made it necessary to search for other solutions, such as developing less-metal dependent technologies like hydrogen fuel cells or batteries from materials extracted from sea water.

"We need to shatter the myth that deep-seabed mining is the solution to the climate crisis!" Howard wrote. "It is nonsense that this form of mining is a 'light' alternative to terrestrial mining and that all the cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese lying 'for the taking' on the bottom of the oceans are some kind of silver bullet."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less
The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

Read More Show Less
A mural honors the medics fighting COVID-19 in Australia, where cases are once again rising, taken on April 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

By Gianna-Carina Grün

While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hannah Watters wrote on Twitter that she was suspended for posting a video and photo of crowded hallways at her high school. hannah @ihateiceman

As the debate over how and if to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic continues, two student whistleblowers have been caught in the crosshairs.

Read More Show Less