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Deep-sea mining makes the ocean floor the hottest property on earth

How can we also protect unique marine ecosystems when the race to extract valuable minerals from the deep sea intensifies?


4th November 2020

By Jon Copley

On August 2, 2007, bright light shone for the first time on the sea floor below the North Pole when a van-sized submarine landed on the sea floor. Inside, pilot Anatoly Sagalevich used a mechanical arm to raise a Russian flag. This act stirred up more than the yellow colored polar sediments.

“This is not the 15th century: You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say we claim this area,” said Canada’s Foreign Minister Peter MacKay. Russia countered that the planting of flags was simply a celebration of their achievement – like bringing a flag to the moon. “The aim of this expedition is not to establish Russia’s rights, but to prove that ours [continental] The shelf extends to the North Pole, ”said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In 2015, Russia used data from the expedition to substantiate a claim for seabed resources on 1.3 million square kilometers around the pole.

This may seem like a land grab in the last few days, but it is actually a step in line with international law based on the vision that the seabed is a “common heritage.” Russia is not the only one claiming resources on the Arctic seabed, and nations are trying to extend their rights to marine resources elsewhere. In the meantime, trading companies are preparing to mine deep-sea mineral deposits.

We have come to a crucial moment for the future of our blue planet. As international bodies prepare to decide on the legitimacy of various mining companies and the protection of marine biodiversity across national borders, deep-sea biologists like me need to understand how these decisions will affect ecosystems.