Mining’s new frontier: Pacific nations caught in the rush for deep-sea riches

Tiny crabs, tubeworms, and other sea life live next to a hot hydrothermal vent. The heat and minerals expelled by the vent allow these creatures to survive without sunlight at the ocean’s floor. Photograph: Ralph White/Getty Images

THE GUARDIAN – Wed 23 Jun 2021 21.00 BST, by Kate Lyons

Judith Nielson Institute

Miners are pushing hard to extract metals from the ocean floor, but there is mounting concern about what it might do to the marine environment.

Travel thousands of metres below the surface of the ocean, and you reach the seabed. Pitch black and quiet, it is largely unexplored, untouched, unknown.

What is known is extraordinary. The landscape at the bottom of the sea is as varied as the earth surface: 4,000m (13,000ft) down, abyssal plains stretch for miles like deserts; there are trenches large enough to swallow the Earth’s largest mountains; venting chimneys rise in towers like underwater cities; seamounts climb thousands of metres. Hot thermal vents – believed by some to be the places where all life on Earth started – gush highly acidic water at temperatures of up to 400C, drawing in an array of creatures.



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