KINGSTON, JAMAICA — A deep-sea “gold rush” led by China could soon have catastrophic consequences for marine ecosystems, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
When shifting tectonic plates create hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, these vents interact with seawater to create polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and ferromanganese [c]crusts rich in valuable minerals such as cobalt and nickel, which are used in many forms of green technology and mobile phones.
However, mining is seen as a major risk to the countless unknown species that live in these areas, and in June more than 350 scientists signed a petition calling for a moratorium until “robust scientific information has been obtained.” This came in response to the Pacific island nation of Nauru activating a legal trigger to allow a Canadian company to start mining in two years’ time, even if a key mining code of practice developed by the U.N.
Is not in place by then, and that is where China comes in.
Critics argue the new precedent could cause a wild west-style gold rush, and the Hong Kong Free Press reports that China is best placed to take advantage of one for three reasons.
First, because it is the first country in the world to sponsor and maintain contracts for exploring all three types of mineral resources in the international seabed area.
Second, because of the 30 contracts the U.N.’s International Seabed Authority has so far issued to explore the seabed, Chinese companies hold five, more than anyone else.
And finally, because of the nation’s powerful position in relation to that International Seabed Authority, where the U.S. is one of the few nations not represented because it has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention.