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Managing mining of the deep seabed

TitleManaging mining of the deep seabed
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWedding, LM, Reiter, SM, Smith, CR, Gjerde, KM, Kittinger, JN, Friedlander, AM, Gaines, SD, Clark, MR, Thurnherr, AM, Hardy, SM, Crowder, LB
Date PublishedJuly 10, 2015
KeywordsGIS and oceanography, seafloor, mining, MPA, marine protected area

Interest in mining the deep seabed is not
new; however, recent technological advances
and increasing global demand
for metals and rare-earth elements may
make it economically viable in the near
future ( 1). Since 2001, the International
Seabed Authority (ISA) has granted 26 contracts
(18 in the last 4 years) to explore for
minerals on the deep seabed, encompassing
~1 million km2 in the Pacific, Atlantic,
and Indian Oceans in areas
beyond national jurisdiction
( 2). However, as fragile habitat structures and
extremely slow recovery rates leave diverse
deep-sea communities vulnerable to physical
disturbances such as those caused by mining
( 3), the current regulatory framework could
be improved. We offer recommendations to
support the application of a precautionary
approach when the ISA meets later this July.
Deep-sea benthic ecosystems are globally
important reservoirs of biodiversity and
endemism that provide important ecosystem
services (e.g., carbon sequestration and
nutrient cycling) ( 4, 5) and include diverse
habitats (e.g., soft-sediment abyssal plains,
hydrothermal vents, seamounts, continental
slopes, and submarine canyons) ( 6). The deep
seabed also harbors substantial, untapped
mineral resources (e.g., polymetallic nodules
containing nickel, copper, cobalt, and
lithium; massive sulfides containing copper
and gold; and seamount crusts containing
cobalt, manganese, and rare-earth minerals)
( 1, 7). The challenge ahead is to find ways
to permit initial exploration, and ultimately
commercial exploitation, of seabed minerals
while sustaining the ecosystems that surround
The seabed outs

Alternate JournalScience