Deep-Sea Mining: A whirlwind tour of the state of the industry and current policy regimes

On April 28, 2022, I was invited to give a short talk to a gathering of Environmental NGO representatives to provide an overview and my perspective on the current state of development for deep-sea mining. Below is the transcript of that talk.

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me. Today I’m going to give you a very brief whirlwind tour of the current state of deep-sea mining and the policy regime around this developing industry.

The first thing I need to highlight is that we often talk about deep-sea mining as one cohesive thing, but it’s really four separate and distinct industries, all developing in tandem, with significant differences in the types of metals targeted, the technology necessary to exploit those metals, and the motivations for doing so.

The approach that gets the most headlines and raises the most protest is hydrothermal vent mining, what the industry calls seafloor massive sulphides. Hydrothermal vents are rich in gold, silver, and copper, but they also host these massive, iconic ecosystems that can be found nowhere else on the planet. If the average person knows anything about the deep-sea, they generally know about hydrothermal vents. And mining them requires the comprehensive destruction of the entire vent system. The chemical energy that drives these ecosystems is the same chemical energy that creates metal deposits. The vent is the ore. In fact, many terrestrial gold mines are the stockworks of ancient hydrothermal vents.

Vent mining had a moment in the 2000s and 2010s, primarily because of one deposit off the coast of Papua New Guinea that was close to shore, incredibly valuable, and politically relatively uncomplicated because it only involved one country. But relatively uncomplicated turned out to still be massively complex, and that endeavor failed fairly spectacularly. This is actually a photo from that prospect, called Solwara I, which is where I did most of my PhD work.

The approach that rarely gets discussed is mining cobalt-rich or ferromanganese crusts. These crusts form as deposits on the surface of seamounts, and they can be rich in cobalt, obviously, but also more exotic metals like scandium, which is used in the aerospace industry, and tellurium which is used in high-efficiency solar panels. But they’re also seamounts, so not only do they support large, diverse deep-sea habitats, but they also may act as nursery grounds for commercially important fish species. Cobalt-rich crusts are interesting because they represent the one deep-sea mining case where there’s a clear industry-to-industry conflict.

But for both hydrothermal vents and cobalt-rich crusts, the actual process of mining is comprehensively destructive, the vent or the crust supports relatively rare ecosystems in the deep-sea and there’s no practical way to exploit them without destroying the overlying biota. And for that reason, both methods have fallen generally out of favor within the larger deep-sea mining industry. There are still contractors proposing to mine vents and crusts, but the actual development of mining capacity is in its infancy and the funding is relatively light.

Where we’re actually seeing rapid development of deep-sea mining capacity is with polymetallic nodules. With the exception of that moment in the 2010s, polymetallic nodules have been the main focus of deep-sea mining since the 1960s, so most of the rest of this discussion is going to center around nodule mining.

But I do want to briefly mention the fourth “industry” within deep-sea mining, and that is what I call geopolitical deep-sea mining. For many nations, there are strategic reasons to participate in the development of the mining industry that have little to do with actually recovering ore from the seafloor at commercial scales. Russia, famously, has been campaigning for decades to establish their sovereignty over a significant portion of the high arctic and views their work with the International Seabed Authority as a component of that effort. China controls about 90% of the terrestrial metal supply for many of the proposed targets for deep-sea mining, either directly or indirectly through their Belt and Road policy, and has a vested interest in ensuring that deep-sea mining doesn’t develop in a way that compromises their supply dominance. So it’s important to remember that many of the most influential state players in the development of deep-sea mining may not necessarily be all that interested in the actual mining part.

In the early days, we called them manganese nodules, but manganese isn’t worth as much anymore, so we call them polymetallic nodules, now.

Polymetallic nodules are weird. They’re rocks, but they grow. They form as minerals in seawater accrete around some kind of hard nucleating agent. Sometimes if you cut them open, you’ll find a shark’s tooth, but more often a diatom test. And they just sit on the seafloor. They aren’t attached to anything. And they don’t really bury themselves, either. Their always at the surface, rarely in the sediment. And we’re really not sure why. But they’re rich in cobalt, nickel, and manganese, all elements that are currently essential to battery production for electric vehicles. And that’s the value proposition from the industry: we need a lot more metals in order to transition away from fossil fuels, and deep-sea mining is a more sustainable way to access those metals. But ecosystems do form around them and on top of them. They support endemic species of worms and sponges and other infauna and, while biomass around these nodule deposits may appear low, the biodiversity is astounding. But, unlike vents and crusts, nodule deposits are huge. They’re found over something like 60% of the abyssal plain. Hydrothermal vents are so rare that the total surface area of all known and hypothesized vents is smaller than Manhattan. Nodules fields may comprise the largest ecosystem on the planet.

So you can see why there are folks, even within the environmental community, who think that deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules might be our last best chance to free us from our fossil fuel addiction.

But there are, of course, environmental consequences to deep-sea mining, and most of those consequences are still unknown. Collecting nodules may have a lighter touch than stump-grinding a hydrothermal vent, but it still disrupts an ecosystem that took millions of years to form. Hard surfaces are valuable to deep-sea animals, and so many creatures live on the nodules. And the process of nodule harvesting, which involves using a deep-sea robot that crawls across the seafloor, scoops up nodules, and then pumps them to the surface through a riser and lift system for downstream processing, can have other impacts. The system produces sediment plumes, both at the seafloor and at the surface and midwater, which could smother surrounding ecosystems. It produces significant marine noise. Having an aircraft carrier-sized ship on station for months produces all the impacts that large vessels produce, and the ore still needs to be refined and processed, somewhere, with all the related impacts that come with refining and processing.

So, here’s where I admit that I remain undecided. I do believe that there is a version of polymetallic nodule mining that has the potential to produce the metals we need for the electrification of the world’s automotive fleet in a way that represents a responsible compromise between the direct impacts of nodule extraction and the existential threat of failing to get emissions under control before the worst predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change become inevitable. I think it’s very hard to argue that polymetallic nodule mining is worse for the world than strip mining Indonesia’s remaining rainforests for nickel or having the children of Congo dig for cobalt.

But boy oh boy there are some caveats. And the biggest one is that deep-sea mining is an additive impact. It won’t replace any of those other forms of mining, and, in fact, within the international policy regime, it shouldn’t adversely impact the terrestrial industries of ISA member states. The other big caveat is that the timeline of deep-sea mining just does not match the urgency of climate change. There’s no deep-sea mining proposal that reaches significant commercial production by 2030. Deep-sea mining isn’t a player in the most important decade for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. It won’t get us to 2030, but if done right, it might get us to 2050.

This presents a really interesting opportunity. Because deep-sea mining is not urgent, that means we have time to get it right, to understand the environmental impacts and tradeoffs, to put in place good policy and good governance, before an ounce of commercial ore is removed from the seafloor.

Unfortunately, that’s where the International Seabed Authority comes in. And if any of you read Todd Woody’s recent article in the LA Times, you know that the best way to describe the current structure of the ISA, and particularly the administrative arm of the ISA, the Secretariat, is “dysfunctional”. The ISA is the international body tasked with establishing the mining code that will allow companies to mine seafloor resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction. It’s a creation of The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and its mandate is to both promote the development of deep-sea mining and protect the marine environment, for the good of humankind, which many note is an inherent conflict of interest.

I’m not going to go deep into the weeds on the structure of the ISA, but I will highlight three emerging issues that will likely be the overwhelming driver of the next few years of mining negotiations.

The first is the Trigger. Last summer, a sponsoring state – all mining companies must be sponsored by an ISA member state – invoked an obscure article of the Convention which forces the ISA to finish the mining code within a two-year window. This mechanism exists to prevent someone from stonewalling progress if a company is ready to mine and nothing but the lack of a mining code is preventing them from doing so, but at the moment, no one is actually ready to mine. So there’s now a rush to develop a Mining Code and all the associated standards and guidelines for deep-sea mining before June 2023.

On top of that, there’s currently a major fight over the composition of the Legal and Technical Commission. The LTC is a collection of experts who review all of the technical documents and advise the ISA on whether or not to approve them. The ISA has never voted against the recommendation of the LTC so this commission is the de facto entity that gets to decide how and when deep-sea mining gets to move forward. And, to no one’s surprise, the geographic representation of the LTC is biased heavily in favor of pro-mining states and underrepresents Africa, South America, and Oceania. (Note: since this talk was presented, the ISA has made some steps to address these issues)

And finally, there’s the financial regime, which determines how member states get paid when resources of the deep sea get mined. Because, remember, the ISA considers these minerals to be property of the Common Heritage of Mankind. Which mean they’re mine, and they’re yours, and they belong to Columbia and Sri Lanka and Ukraine and they also belong to future generations. UNCLOS is occasionally a breathlessly progressive document. So if someone mines, they have to pay. And after 27 years of negotiations, no one has yet figured out how that compensation should work.

There’s a lot of other issues in play and the last ISA meeting that just wrapped up was fairly dramatic, but I’m going to leave it at those three for now.

And it’s worth mentioning that the Mining Code will apply to all kinds of deep-sea mining, but is being developed with a specific focus on nodule mining.

So we should probably end with who is actually driving these developments. There are three major private companies and a handful of member states who are most deeply involved in moving deep-sea mining forward. There’s the Metals Company out of Canada, who are sponsored by Nauru and have nodule claims predominantly in the middle of the Pacific. GSR is EU-based, and it’s supported by its parent company, DEME, which is the world’s largest dredging company. UKSR is a subsidiary of Lockheed and has lots of smaller plays, but stays relatively quiet. And there’s a newcomer, Impossible Mining, which wants to used neutrally buoyant AI-powered autonomous robots to gently pluck nodules from the seafloor without producing a plume, but they are in very early development and as far as I know, don’t have any mining leases, yet.

On the nation side, China, South Korea, India, Japan, and Brazil all have their own state-owned mining companies in various stages of development. India has made a massive investment in deep-sea capacity, including build a 6000-meter capable submarine to match China and Japan’s. China is the only mining contractor that has leases for vents, crusts, and nodules. And Brazil is very interested in cobalt-rich crusts in the mid-Atlantic, which is an entire fascinating story in its own right.

These aren’t the only countries, just the ones who have made significant capacity investments towards commercial mining

There are a lot of things that have to happen, and they are happening fast. The mining code must be approved by 2023, which is a deadline that the ISA will likely miss, placing the burden of approving a plan of work on the LTC. There are at least 2 years of technology trials that need to happen before any of these systems are even ready to begin pilot mining projects. There’s a growing push for a moratorium on deep-sea mining by several environmental NGOs and nations.

And there’s the x-factor. Battery technology is evolving rapidly and many manufacturers, including Tesla, Samsung, Nissan, and others are pushing for next-generation batteries that don’t rely on cobalt or nickel in their chemistries. Much like the demand for manganese crashed at the beginning of the 1980’s, a change in battery chemistry could significantly impact the potential profitability of deep-sea mining.

And if you’ve found it hard to keep up with the ongoing negotiations and the ever fluctuating political winds of the deep-sea mining world, just remember, no one has started mining yet, and, as was often repeated at the last ISA meeting, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

Thank you.

Southern Fried Science and the OpenCTD project are supported by funding from our Patreon Subscribers. If you value these resources, please consider contributing a few dollars to help keep the servers running and the coffee flowing.

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: For Deep-sea mining, battery technology is the ultimate x-factor

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on August 26, 2021.

Deep-sea mining is frequently framed as a race to the seafloor. While that is not technically true–deep-sea mining has, in fact, been incredibly slow to develop as an industry, with nearly half a century of technological innovation, diplomatic negotiation, and environmental exploration under its belt without producing a single ounce of commercial ore–the deep-sea mining industry is in a race against the one major technological innovation that could upend the industry’s claim to being a foundational technology for the renewable resource transition. 

The race is not to the bottom of the sea before fossil fuel consumption creates runaway global warming (with a 30-year-horizon, deep-sea mining is well positioned to facilitate the long-term transition to renewables, but is unlikely to make a major impact in the resource demands needed to meat the IPCC 2030 targets). The race is to reach commercial production before the evolving state of battery technology renders the majority of seabed resources superfluous. Battery chemistry is the x-factor that will shape the long-term prospects for the viability of deep-sea mining. 

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Major Brands Say No to Deep-sea Mining, for the Moment

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on April 15, 2021.

On Wednesday, March 30, several major technology and automotive companies joined the deep-sea mining moratorium movement. Google, BMW, Volvo, and Samsung SDI (a Samsung subsidiary responsible for manufacturing small lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and other applications) signed on to the World Wide Fund For Nature’s Global Deep-sea Mining Moratorium Campaign. These are the first major corporations to commit not to source minerals from the deep seabed or finance deep-sea mining activities, and to exclude seafloor minerals from their supply chain. 

“Sustainability leaders should be concerned about how their green image could be affected by incorporating deep sea minerals into their metal supply chain,” says Kristina M. Gjerde, Senior High Seas Advisor to the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Deep sea minerals are not solving the problem of harmful impacts, just relocating it elsewhere, where the affected communities are less able to speak for themselves. Moreover, it should be clear by now that relocating mining to the deep sea is unlikely to reduce the issues associated with terrestrial mining. By increasing the availability of minerals, deep sea mining could in fact make it harder to clean up terrestrial mining activities.”

As major automotive manufacturers in the midst of a pivot to electric vehicles, BMW and Volvo’s announcements represent a potential threat to the deep-sea metal market. BMW expects 50% of all its vehicle sales to be electric by the end of the decade, with several BMW subsidiaries, including Mini, producing only EVs by 2030. Volvo, who also intends to be fully electric by 2030, recently shipped its first all-electric vehicle to the United States, though software issues caused the long-awaited XC40 Recharge to be held in port pending a critical system update.

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Delegates struggle to develop Regional Environmental Management Plans during a global pandemic

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on January 29, 2021.

Since the pandemic brought travel to a halt, the International Seabed Authority has been working to meet contractor deadlines and make progress on a variety of issues revolving around finalizing the mining code, facilitating workshops, and engaging stakeholders and experts through remote meetings. These efforts include workshops on the development of Regional Environmental Management Plans (REMPs) for the Northwest Pacific and the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Though some stakeholders were satisfied with the efforts to move workshops online, many were left frustrated by a process that felt rushed, less transparent, and less inclusive of the breadth of stakeholders represented by the deep-sea mining community.

Regional Environmental Management Plans are one of the foundational policy instruments that determine how contractors act and interact within a geographic region. They provide guidance for not just individual lease blocks, but for how the whole of an area, including multiple lease blocks by multiple contractors, as well as areas of particular environmental interest and set asides will be managed. The process of negotiating a REMP is long and detail-oriented and includes the input of numerous stakeholder groups and expert advisors. So far, only a single REMP, for the Clarion-Clipperton  Fracture Zone, has been approved by the International Seabed Authority. 

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Has pulling the Trigger already backfired?

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on August 26, 2021.

The Republic of Nauru turned the deep-sea mining world on its head this summer when it invoked Article 15, colloquially known as the Trigger, starting a 2-year countdown on the finalization of mining regulations for polymetallic nodules in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This countdown means that commercial deep-sea mining could potentially commence within 3 years. But that commencement depends on a suite of benchmarks, both procedural and technological, that have yet to be met. 

While Nauru and its deep-sea mining contractor, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of The Metals Company), emphasize the urgency of unlocking seafloor metals to accelerate the transition to a fossil fuel-free future, many stakeholders have expressed surprise at what they feel is a premature invocation of a rule designed to prevent oppositional member states from stonewalling progress on a mining code. 

The two year clock doesn’t guarantee that a mining code will be complete within that time frame, but rather that either the mining code be finalized or a submitted Plan of Work be considered by the Council based on current and best-available standards and guidelines. Though The Metals Company has stated in the past that it would not support invoking Article 15 unless it was certain it had the backing of the majority of the Council, those political winds could easily change in the next three years, and the Council retains the authority to reject a Plan of Work. 

It remains to be seen whether and if a mining code drafted under ticking clock of the two-year countdown will be more or less amenable to the preferences of deep-sea mining contractors and their sponsor states, but initial responses from delegations representing ISA Council members, the Legal and Technical Commission, and observers suggest that invoking Article 15 is just as likely to backfire on the Republic of Nauru and The Metals Company. 

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: A pivotal moment in the history of deep-sea mining

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on June 30, 2021.

The spring and summer of 2021 will likely stand as the pivotal moment in the history of deep-sea mining. Months of intense protest amidst significant at-sea progress on environmental impact studies and prototype testing were capped off earlier this week by the explosive announcement that the Republic of Nauru, sponsoring state of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Metals Company (formerly DeepGreen), was invoking Article 15 triggering the 2-year countdown to complete the Mining Code.

An apparent sea change in the relationship between mining contractors, environmental NGOs, and other stakeholders, began in late March, when the Worldwide Fund for Nature announced a new campaign to get major corporations to pledge to exclude minerals produced from the deep sea from their supply chains until the impacts to the ocean were more thoroughly understood. These companies included BMW and Volvo, which have a major stake in electric vehicle manufacturing, and Samsung SDI, who produce small cell lithium batteries for electronic devices. 

That announcement came just days before both GSR and The Metals Company were preparing for at-sea campaigns to continue their environmental baseline work and prototype nodule collector testing in the Clarion Clipperton Zone. The Metals Company’s Expedition 5B was one of several research cruises conducted over the last few years as part of a comprehensive plan to characterize the ecosystems, including pelagic communities, around their polymetallic nodule leases in the NORI-D contract areas and assess the potential impacts of their eventual nodule extraction operations. As DeepGreen, The Metals Company had previously lent the use of their ship, the Maersk Launcher, to the high seas plastic collection program The Ocean Cleanup

Only days later, GSR launched its own four-week research campaign in collaboration with  the EU MiningImpact program. During a month at sea, they tested the Patania II nodule collector prototype. The Patania II did suffer an engineering failure during sea trials which left the collector detached on the seafloor for several days before successful recovery to the surface, a scenario which is not unexpected during prototype testing. “This is pioneering engineering work and we were prepared for multiple eventualities.” said Kris Van Nijen, Managing Director of GSR in a press release. “…we were able to reconnect Patania II and we look forward to completing the mission, including further deployments of Patania II.”

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: What happens when we pull the trigger?

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on November 19, 2021.

Throughout the 26th Session of the International Seabed Authority, during both the council meeting and via media interviews, deep-sea mining contractors have begun to talk about “the trigger”. The trigger is a protocol within UNCLOS which would allow sponsoring states to jumpstart the deep-sea mining process, placing a ticking clock on the development of the mining exploitation regulations. Annex I, Section 1(15) of the 1994 Agreement on the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS (colloquially referred to as “Article 15” or more informally, “the trigger”) allows a sponsoring state to expedite the current mining code negotiations by submitting a plan of work for a contractor that is imminently ready to begin production. 

Article 15 lays out the conditions under which a sponsoring state could initiate deep-sea mining in the Area absent a finalized mining code. If a sponsoring state submits a plan of work for a commercial deep-sea mining operation, that action starts a two-year countdown. If there is no approved code by the two-year deadline, the contractor and sponsoring state can move forward with exploitation in accordance with their own submitted plan of work and a set of provisional regulations that have been approved by the Council. 

“Without this provision,” says Pradeep Singh of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, “it was technically possible pursuant to UNCLOS for one or a few Council members to deploy filibuster tactics to frustrate or impede the adoption of key regulations. With the introduction of this provision and in the context of exploitation activities, it is possible for a member state of the Authority to request for exploitation regulations to be adopted by the Council within a prescribed period of two years from the date of the request, failing which, it would still have to consider any application submitted for exploitation activities despite the absence of the said regulations.”

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: ISA rushes forward

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This editorial first appeared on September 30, 2021.

Opinion by Andrew Thaler, DSMO Editor-in-Chief

The International Seabed Authority published their provisional roadmap for the next two years of international negotiations, optimistically culminating with the approval of the Mining Code for polymetallic nodules in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This ambitious goal depends upon the ability to resume ISA sessions in Kingston, a scenario that continues to be unlikely, with many participants and stakeholders expressing doubt that in-person meetings will resume before boreal summer 2022. 

The ISA hopes to get at least a few delegations to return to Jamaica before the end of the year. As part of their new schedule, they expect to hold a much-abridged meeting of the Assembly and Council this December. The ISA is encouraging member states to send small delegations of no more than 2 individuals or use already in-country representatives from existing permanent missions. Observers are limited to sending a single individual. Even with a smaller format, several stakeholders have expressed doubts that the ISA will be able to gather enough members for a quorum. 

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Deep-sea Mining has Time.

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This editorial first appeared on August 27, 2021.

Opinion by Andrew Thaler, DSMO Editor-in-Chief

As we enter the final quarter of 2021, with a global pandemic still raging across all but a few countries and impacting supply chains and critical work throughout the world, it looks increasingly unlikely that an in-person session of the ISA will be possible before 2022, marking two years of substantially diminished progress on the development of the mining code and increasing frustration among stakeholders. Some of the most important voices at the negotiating table continue to struggle to get the latest outbreak under control. India, Russia, the UK, and Japan are not only among the top ten countries with the most new Covid cases as of this week but are ISA member states that sponsor mining contractors (at least one other contractor-sponsoring member state has stopped reporting new cases, while the United States, though not a member state, is also in the midst of a pandemic surge and contributes capacity and expertise to ISA negotiations).

In light of this global progress slowdown, not just for deep-sea mining, but among a host of international challenges and objectives, the push for urgency among some mining contractors and sponsoring states simply does not add up.

Read More

Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: The Precarious Partnership Between Deep-sea Mining Contractors and Environmental NGOs

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This editorial first appeared on June 25, 2021.

Opinion by Andrew Thaler, DSMO Editor-in-Chief

Deep-sea mining occupies a unique niche in the annals of extractive exploration. Its modern manifestation owes as much to the surging demand of critical minerals as it does to the work of environmental organizations shining a light on the vast environmental and ethical catastrophes of terrestrial mining. In its current form, deep-sea mining is an industry motivated by the need to rapidly wean ourselves from fossil fuels. It is, in short, an industrial response to an environmental crisis. 

Whether or not it is the right response, for whatever “right” means in the midst of a global crisis while the clock is ticking, remains to be proven. No plans of work have been approved and no mining licenses have been issued by the International Seabed Authority for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. What few attempts have been made in territorial waters have not reached production or have collapsed under the complexity of the operation. Deep-sea mining is an industry that has been perpetually just over the horizon. That horizon creeps closer every year.

There is an precarious partnership between deep-sea mining contractors and environmental NGOs, two entities with wildly differing views of what the world needs to reach sustainable development, but a recognition, at least in principle, that negotiation and compromise are possible. Even the calls for moratoria leave room for the possibility that deep-sea mining can be shown to be sustainable.

Read More