Daily Newsletter

11 March 2024

Daily Newsletter

11 March 2024

Deep-sea mining could cause $500bn in environmental damage – report

The undertaking is proving not to be financially or environmentally viable.

Alfie Shaw March 08 2024

Deep-sea mining could cause up to 25-times more damage to the world’s biodiversity than land-based mining, resulting in $500bn of lost value, according to a new study published on Thursday.

Many of the critical minerals needed in the production of electric vehicles (EV) can be found under the ocean floor, including cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese. Reserves are estimated to be worth somewhere between $8trn and $16trn.

The report, entitled How to Lose Half a Trillion and authored by non-profit Planet Tracker, said extracting metals from the seabed could cost the mining industry $30bn–132bn in value destruction.

François Mosnier, lead author of the report, said: “Before factoring in any environmental impacts, the economics already appear uncompelling. High operating expenditures mean that returns will be negative for investors in deep-sea mining, which will also destroy value in other sectors such as terrestrial mining and fishing.”

“It is not often that financial markets can claim a major success in nature conservation while avoiding significant destruction to corporate value and natural capital. Preventing deep-sea mining would be such an opportunity,” he added.

Many major global banks such as NatWest, Lloyds, ABN Amro and Standard Chartered have already ruled out funding deep-sea exploration and extraction.

Speaking to Mining Technology, Dr Kirsten Thompson, biologist at the University of Exeter, highlighted the potential negative aspects of deep-sea mining. She said: “I don’t think it can be sustainable. I mean fundamentally, you are talking about extracting minerals from the frontier of the oceans, the frontier of the planet. We haven’t managed to get there because of a lack of development in the technology. For me it seems like yet another industry that is pushing into a frontier area before regulations are in place.”

Speaking to the financial difficulty of deep-sea mining, Victor Vescovo, co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings, said: “I am first and foremost an industrial private equity guy. I did the math, and deep-sea mining just doesn’t work, as the risks are extraordinarily high.”

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