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Deep-Sea Metals Mining Gets OK

Valuable metals could soon be harvested in large quantities from the Pacific seafloor, according to Quartz.

What’s going on: The International Seabed Authority has given the green light for Canadian firm The Metals Company “to deploy a prototype collector that will aim to vacuum fist-sized chunks of metal from three miles under the surface of the waves. This initial effort, characterized as a test, expects to recover 3,600 metric tons (3,968 tons) of metal nodules.”

  • The Metals Company is working with three Pacific Island countries—Tonga, Kiribati and Nauru—to extract the undersea metals.

Why it’s important: The pieces of metal, first discovered in the 19th century and further explored during the 1970s by oil companies, contain large concentrations of copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

  • These metals are “all key to building the batteries and electrical systems required to decarbonize energy production. Demand for these substances is soaring along with their prices …”

Greener practices: The Metals Company, whose first Pacific Ocean venture will be overseen by ocean scientists, “says that deep-sea mining for these metals will be more environmentally friendly than the techniques used to extract these metals from the surface of the Earth and less likely to exploit workers.”

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