By Kylie Stanton & Simon Little, Global News
A Vancouver company is trying to navigate difficult political and environmental currents, amid a growing debate over the future of deep-sea mining.
It comes amid a high-stakes international meeting in Jamaica that could have lasting effects on access to what some believe to be the key future source of key minerals used for electric vehicle batteries.
B.C.-based mining enterprise The Metals Company is hoping to exploit a large deposit of what are known as polymetallic nodules located in what’s known as the Clarion Clipperton Zone near the Hawaiian archipelago.
“It’s conceivable that the supply from this resource could become the number one provider of battery metals for those important ingredients,” The Metals Company chairman and CEO Gerard Barron told Global News. Story continues below advertisement
Located 4,000 metres below sea level, the small, potato-shaped nodules are rich in cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese, and could go a long way towards meeting growing demand for electric vehicle batteries.
But there’s also growing opposition to mining the sea floor.
“These nodules have taken millions of years to form, they are in ecosystems that are very slow moving, very deep seas — the impacts on biodiversity are irreversible,” said Susanna Fuller, vice-president with conservation group Oceans North.
The International Seabed Authority is currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to come up with regulations to allow deep sea mining as early as 2024.
But so far, Germany, Spain, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Chile, Panama, Fiji, and the Federated States of Mirconesia have demanded a “precautionary pause” on the practice, due to a lack of scientific data.
France, meanwhile, has called for an outright ban.
Canada has yet to take a position on the the issue.
“The potential for a cascade of effects all the way up the water column is great,” Catherine Coumans, research coordinator with MiningWatch Canada, told Global News.
“This is what the scientists are saying, so we need to take the time to understand what it is that we are going to be impacting before we destroy it.”
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