Deep Sea Mining
Why in NEWS
The international sea-bed authority (UN Body) is resuming negotiations which can open the international seabed for mining , including for materials critical for the green energy transition.
What is deep sea mining?
Deep-sea mining is the process of extracting and often excavating mineral deposits from the deep seabed. The deep seabed is the seabed at ocean depths greater than 200m, and covers about two-thirds of the total seafloor.
There are three types of such mining
- Taking deposit-rich poly-metallic nodules off the ocean floor
- Mining massive seafloor sulphide deposits
- Stripping cobalt crusts from rock
Despite this, there is growing interest in the mineral deposits of the seabed. This is said to be due to depleting terrestrial deposits of metals such as copper, nickel, aluminium, manganese, zinc, lithium and cobalt. Demand for these metals is also increasing to produce technologies like smartphones, wind turbines, solar panels and batteries.
Regulation of Deep Sea Mining
The International Seabed Authority, the foremost authority on the seabed worldwide was established by the United Nations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the amendment in the form of the 1994 Agreement of UNCLOS. As of 2020, the ISA has 168 member states (including the European Union) and covers 54% of the ocean. The ISA is mandated to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from seabed-related activities.
Based on current knowledge of the deep sea, the following impacts of mining activities could affect its biodiversity and ecosystems:
- Disturbance of the seafloor: The digging and gauging of the ocean floor by machines can alter or destroy deep-sea habitats. This leads to the loss of species, many of which are found nowhere else, and the fragmentation or loss of ecosystem structure and function. It is the most direct impact from deep-sea mining and the damage caused is most likely permanent.
- Sediment plumes: Deep-sea mining will stir up fine sediments on the seafloor, creating plumes of suspended particles.
For instance, such plumes could smother animals, harm filter-feeding species, and block animals’ visual communication.
- Pollution: Species such as whales, tuna and sharks could be affected by noise, vibrations and light pollution caused by mining equipment and surface vessels, as well as potential leaks and spills of fuel and toxic products.
What can be done?
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Area and its mineral resources are the common heritage of humankind. This means they must be managed on behalf of and in the interests of all humanity including through: the sharing of economic benefits; support for marine scientific research; and the effective protection of the marine environment.
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille (September 2021), IUCN Members adopted Resolution 122 to protect deep-ocean ecosystems and biodiversity through a moratorium on deep-sea mining unless and until a number of conditions are met. These include:
- The risks of mining are comprehensively understood and effective protection can be ensured;
- Rigorous and transparent impact assessments are conducted based on comprehensive baseline studies;
- The Precautionary Principle and the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ are implemented;
- Policies incorporating circular economic principles to reuse and recycle minerals have been developed and implemented;
- The public are consulted throughout decision-making;
- The governance of deep-sea mining is transparent, accountable, inclusive, effective and environmentally responsible.
Reliance on metals from mining can be reduced by redesigning, reusing and recycling. In addition, research should focus on creating more sustainable alternatives to their use because deep-sea mining could irreparably harm marine ecosystems, and limit the many benefits the deep sea provides to humanity.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Mission Vatsalya” erstwhile Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme, since 2009-10 for the welfare and rehabilitation of children.
About the Mission
- Mission Vatsalya Scheme is a roadmap to achieve development and child protection priorities aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- It lays emphasis on child rights, advocacy and awareness along with strengthening of the juvenile justice care and protection system with the motto to ‘leave no child behind’.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 provisions and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 form the basic framework for implementation of the Mission