Deep-seabed mining is creating a noisy problem for Australia — and it’s only getting louder

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The rise of deep-sea mining is posing a threat to marine life across the world. Global action is needed, but will Australia stand up?

Activists protest a Metals Company deep sea mining vessel following test mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (Image: REUTERS/Gustavo Graf)

Given the exponential threats it poses to the marine environment, deep seabed mining is destined to become a contentious global environmental issue. The risks are significant enough to make a mockery of any precautionary principle.

A number of Pacific Island nations have already sponsored mining projects including Nauru, Tonga, Kiribati and the Cook Islands, and Australia is set to play a major role. The raison d’etre is to satisfy the demand for critical minerals required for technologies such as solar panels and batteries designed to reduce greenhouse emissions.

According to CSIRO analysis of seabed mining, Australia’s deep ocean mineral resources beyond the three nautical miles from the coast governed by Commonwealth legislation (known as the “adjacent area”) include manganese nodules, rare-earth minerals, and base and precious metals including copper, zinc, led, gold and silver deposits. 

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