The Atlantic Features Ocean Mining in First Issue of 2020

A new article in January/February 2020 issue of The Atlantic, looks at the motivations behind ocean mining, how it is advancing, and what the barriers to accessing underwater mineral resources are.

The article states, “On the west coast of Africa, the De Beers Group is using a fleet of specialized ships to drag machinery across the seabed in search of diamonds. In 2018, those ships extracted 1.4 million carats from the coastal waters of Namibia; in 2019, De Beers commissioned a new ship that will scrape the bottom twice as quickly as any other vessel . . . But the biggest prize for mining companies will be access to international waters, which cover more than half of the global seafloor and contain more valuable minerals than all the continents combined.”

The article also discusses regulations from the International Seabed Authority (ISA), environmental challenges, and technology barriers.

“If it strikes you as peculiar that modern vehicles cannot penetrate the deepest ocean,” says author Wil S. Hylton, “take a moment to imagine what it means to navigate six or seven miles below the surface. Every 33 feet of depth exerts as much pressure as the atmosphere of the Earth, so when you are just 66 feet down, you are under three times as much pressure as a person on land, and when you are 300 feet down, you’re subjected to 10 atmospheres of pressure. Tube worms living beside hydrothermal vents near the Galápagos are compressed by about 250 atmospheres, and mining vehicles in the CCZ have to endure twice as much—but they are still just half as far down as the deepest trenches.”

You can read the entire article here.