The limited opportunities to mine for minerals on land is making the world consider deep seabed mining as an alternative. But this can pose major destruction to marine biodiversity , given our limited knowledge of the effects of disturbing the high seas , especially in oxygen-minimum zones.
The world’s first deep-sea mine will open in 2018 in the waters off Papua New Guinea, with purpose-built machinery to extract precious metals from the sea bed.
In the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea (PNG), at a project known as Solwara 1, Nautilus Minerals has been granted the first lease to mine the deep sea for metals.
With scarcity in resources around the world and countries needing more and more metals to sustain everyday life, mining the ocean floor is being looked at as a way to meet this demand.
Nautilus holds approximately 450,000 sq km of highly prospective exploration acreage in the western Pacific – in PNG, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga, as well as in international waters in the eastern Pacific.
Preliminary discoveries have shown that resources on the seafloor are enormous. Looking at the ocean, there are very large deposits of seafloor massive sulphides (SMSs), copper, nickel, cobalt and polymetallic nodules. And they are very high-grade compared with land-based deposits.