Deep-sea mining is making seabed the hottest real estate on Earth

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The absolute deviation from conventional fossil fuels is the future of Earth. To accomplish this, we need batteries to accumulate electricity from non-conventional sources. Batteries come with the cost of metals such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, etc., especially the most popular and productive lithium-ion batteries.

We are witnessing that mining causes ecological disharmony, contamination of all resources in the neighboring area. Miners work under hazardous conditions that advance respiratory diseases, for instance, pneumoconiosis, asbestosis, and silicosis. There is also human abuse at the site, especially in developing countries. The solution to the above snag is potato size lumps lying on the abyss of the earth, i.e. polymetallic nodules, which we can get through deep-sea mining.

Deep-sea mining is a way to get minerals from the ocean floor.

We get minerals in the form of nodules lying on the sea bed. These nodules are generally made up of precipitated manganese oxides and iron oxides on which rare earth elements, for instance, nickel, cobalt, copper, and titanium sorb. These nodules are in abundance at the clarion-Clipperton zone, which is from Hawaii to Mexico. These nodules have enough rare metal, which we don’t have hitherto on the orb. It’s in a developing phase, so we don’t have the proper technology to fetch them.

As we move down in the water, at every 10 meters of depth 1 atm pressure increases. As per the data, there is around 400 atm pressure at the sea bed which is 400 times the pressure on the earth’s surface. But some veterans, researchers, and engineers come up with a solution. In this process, there is a surface vessel which could be a cargo ship and a collector vehicle that collects the nodules. The surface vessel deploys the collector vehicle that will be down at the range of 2500 to 4000 meters. The collector vehicle removes 10 to 15 centimeters of the bed and works by creating a vacuum; by which it collects the nodules. There are two pipes from the surface vessel – one which collects the nodules from the collector vehicle and the other which pours back the sediments that come along with the nodules. The second is around half the height of the sea bottom from the surface vessel.

You can get more insights in the book given below:

Problems with seabed mining

1. Disruption of the sea

Mechanical erosion may alter or destroy deep-seated habitats, resulting in loss of species or loss of natural and functional structure. Many deep-sea species exist – which means they do not occur anywhere else in the world – and physical disturbances in one mining area may eradicate all species. This is one of the major potential impacts of the deep ocean mines.

2. Dirt

Species such as whales, tuna, and sharks can be affected by noise, vibration, and minor pollution caused by mining equipment and overhead ships, as well as potential leaks and spills of fuel and toxic products.

3. Sediment boards

Some types of deep ocean mines will stir up fine soil in the oceans that contain mud, clay, and fossil fuels, creating large quantities of suspended particles. It is not yet clear how far these particles can spread from that of the mining area, how long it would take them to settle in the ocean, and how they could affect the ecosystem and species, for example by sneezing animals or damaging feeders based on clear, clean water to feed, such as krill and whale shark.

At the same time addressing the growing population in the world while converting to a low carbon-based economy. What is known is that there are costs, in any case, there are obvious costs when we go to the deep sea and collect these bumps. It will affect the deep ocean environment, but there are costs associated with not thinking about doing it that could affect our ability to change. It will leave all the burdens of getting the minerals we need on the land. The answer to these questions should be based on the principles of data and science to produce sound decisions with the right hegemony. We must also follow the guidelines by the UN convention on the law of the sea. In these works, it may be; land mines or ocean-based mines are at least dangerous on the planet, that should be what we do, or we can both do together.

Under the ministry of Earth Sciences, 8,000 crore Indian rupees will be invested to explore the deepest region of the oceans and to promote sustainable use of vast living and non-living ocean resources that remain untapped. It was a 100-day program, started in October 2019 to do primary research. The UN international seabed authority has allotted to India a site of 75,000 square kilometers in the central Indian Ocean for exploitation of polymetallic Nodules.

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