Electric Cars and Underwater Mining: Is It Really Good for the Planet?
II’ve never been there, but reliable sources tell me that the bottoms of the deepest parts of the ocean are covered with what are called polymetallic nodules. These nodules are shaped like potatoes, but instead of starch, they are filled with all kinds of different metals: manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare earth metals.
In recent years, these polymetallic potatoes have become very valuable, and as a result, some companies wish to exploit the deep ocean floors in order to harvest them.
Specifically, the island nation of Nauru, whose economy was once based on surface mining of bird droppings, has contracted with a Canadian company to exploit the deep ocean. When I say deep I mean Deep – like 16,000 feet. It’s over 3 miles down.
No one has exploited the seabed before. That didn’t stop The Metals Company, which just became public and partnered with Nauru for the purpose of mining these polymetallic potatoes at a depth of 3 miles.
The company was previously called “DeepGreen Metals”. Why “Green”? Because this unprecedented and dangerous experience of tearing the seabed is part of âthe clean energy transitionâ, as the company puts it.
In short, the company plans to exploit the deep seabed in order to obtain the materials necessary for the batteries of electric cars. Many environmental groups are panicking.
“The risks are enormous”, writing Guardian environmental editor Jonathan Watts. âSurveillance is almost impossible. Regulators admit that humanity knows more about deep space than the deep ocean. The technology has not been proven. Scientists don’t even know what lives in these deep ecosystems. ”
A Reuters item on the listed company an army of opponents.
Australia banned seabed mining off part of its northern coast last month, citing the potential impact on the environment.
Greenpeace has intensified its advocacy against this activity in recent months. He calls on world governments not to sponsor any seabed mining, related research or exploration, and to stop the development of a mining code under the aegis of the International Seabed Authority.
“There is nothing sustainable about digging the seabed for mining,” said Greenpeace spokeswoman Nelli Stevenson, when asked about DeepGreen’s mining plans.
âThe deep ocean must remain closed to the mining industry to prevent further loss of biodiversity and potentially damage a critical carbon sink. ”
What if all the subsidies for electric cars and their batteries, combined with taxes and regulations limiting tailpipe emissions, resulted in massive demand for these deep-sea nodules and thus devastate our oceans?
That wouldn’t be shocking, as regulations, grants, and mandates typically only achieve some of their goals, typically those of enriching well-connected people and holding the ruling class accountable, even while undermining their stated purpose.
It is also possible that seabed mining can be done safely without too much impact on the environment. The Guardian has a long room this week, however, calling the practice a disaster.