With the INCREASING climate dangers associated with human consumption of fossil fuels, a local scientist insists it is now more important than ever to support research that advances understanding of the value of the deep sea before rushing in to exploit the region.
“Mining is destructive and non-renewable; resources would not be returned for millennia and, in some cases, never. Governments should therefore refuse to support licensing (for the exploitation of deep sea mineral resources) until there is more research into the effects of disturbing these areas as well as the potential value in terms of ecosystem services,” noted Professor Mona Webber, Director of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Marine Science Center.
His comment follows the recent meeting of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, where draft regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources were discussed.
These regulations, if and when they come into effect, should guide the deep-sea mining industry, which is projected to contribute up to $1 trillion to the United States economy each year. The deep sea is considered an important source, for example, of rare earth metals which play a role in the development of technologies.
According to Webber, “the same prospecting and exploration activities must be done to collect data that allows us to assess the value of the ecosystem and the potential effect of its destruction.”
“Determining the value of deep waters in carbon removal and burial is particularly important at a time when the world is on the brink of climate catastrophe. What would be the economic losses of disturbing what could be one of the largest buried carbon reservoirs? ” she said The Gleaner.
Webber, a marine biologist and ecologist with more than 25 years of experience in teaching and research, suggested that the necessary resources be mobilized for this purpose.
“We cannot use the excuse that ‘there is no evidence to support the disastrous effect of mining’. We need to research and get evidence,” she said.
“Most of us lack the resources to study these areas, however, scientists have begun to analyze the resilience of animals in specific mining areas. The research aims to mimic the effects of nodule mining and demonstrate how organisms would recover. Research shows that even if densities and diversity could be regained, it would take millennia and could still cause substantial changes in the community,” Webber added.
“There is a need for research that shows the value of deep sea processes (eg carbon burial) as well as deep sea biota. There may be equivalent biological resources in terms of bioactive compounds that can be “harvested” without complete destruction of the ecosystem and organisms. The assessment of the deep sea ecosystem is virtually unknown. We need to compare these ecosystem services to the value of the metals we seek to extract,” said the professor, who also holds the James Moss Solomon Sr Chair in Environment at UWI Mona.