July 30, 2019

International Seabed Authority must strike a balance between technology, conservation

News Source: The Financial Express

The tech industry’s ever-increasing demand for rare metals, like lithium and molybdenum, portends an explosion in mining of the ocean floor in the coming years. On July 18, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added the scaly-foot snail to its Red List of Threatened Species—the first species to be threatened by deep-sea mining. The marine animal occupies just three locations in the western Indian Ocean; these locations included sites identified for mining. As per Nature, countries and corporations already hold contracts for mining exploration of about 1.3 million sq km of the sea bed implying that thousands of marine species, many of which haven’t even been identified , face unprecedented extermination and, possibly, extinction risks.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), responsible for deep-sea mining in international waters, also has a mandate to protect the international sea-bed. Even as it is expected to finalise a code for sea-bed mining by 2020, it must take into account a host of factors that make deep-sea mining almost inimical to the planet’s long-term conservation interests—it is feared, deep-sea mining will release vast amounts of carbon trapped in deep-sea sediments, aggravating conditions on the climate change front. Marine scientists have written an open letter to ISA, calling for evaluation of company/country proposals by independent scientists and for the organisation to work more closely with intergovernmental organisations that can forefront conservation concerns in talks with companies, especially since the ISA seems to prioritise its developmental role over its conservation one. But, given how the Earth’s future is also tied to tech developments, ISA must strike a fine balance.

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