Seabed mining conservation strategies insufficient

New research reveals proposed conservation strategies at seabed mining sites are inadequate

seabed mining research

Seafloor massive sulfide deposits support unique megafaunal assemblages: Implications for seabed mining and conservation

Open Channels

Authors: Rachel Boschen, Ashley Rowden, Malcolm Clark, Arne Pallentin, Jonathan Gardner

Mining of seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) is imminent, but the ecology of assemblages at SMS deposits is poorly known. Proposed conservation strategies include protected areas to preserve biodiversity at risk from mining impacts. Determining site suitability requires biological characterisation of the mine site and protected area(s). Video survey of a proposed mine site and protected area off New Zealand revealed unique megafaunal assemblages at the mine site. Significant relationships were identified between assemblage structure and environmental conditions, including hydrothermal features. Unique assemblages occurred at both active and inactive chimneys and are particularly at risk from mining-related impacts. The occurrence of unique assemblages at the mine site suggests that the proposed protected area is insufficient alone and should instead form part of a network. These results provide support for including hydrothermally active and inactive features within networks of protected areas and emphasise the need for quantitative survey data of proposed sites.

PDF File [2.7MB] Seafloor massive sulfide deposits support unique megafaunal assemblages Implications for seabed mining and conservation.pdf


1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Pacific region, Papua New Guinea

One response to “Seabed mining conservation strategies insufficient

  1. The Australian Government has indicated in its ” Defence White Paper” that the Pacific Maritime Security Program is a major imperative.
    Apparently, “One quarter of the $195 billion will go to the navy, including initial work on the 12 new submarines, but also on building nine anti-submarine warfare frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels.

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    The exclusive economic zone for sea bed mining (see map below) appears to be part of the big picture.

    Also, “A gold deposit bearing at least 470 tonnes of the precious metal has been discovered beneath the seabed off the coast of eastern China, mainland online media reports…
    In a world of diminishing resources, seabeds – which make up 70 per cent of the world’s surface – are being explored for their mining potential, although many scientists and conservationist oppose disrupting marine ecosystems that are barely understood.”

    So whilst, the argument is in Australia that: “Australia’s new fleet of 12 submarines will cost at least $50 billion just to build, the Turnbull government’s Defence white paper has revealed – at stark odds with public claims by shipbuilders that they can be constructed at a fraction of that price” .


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    Regional research project shows dangerous folly of PNG seabed mining experiment
    SPC fisheries ESM 2016
    PNG is playing a dangerous game with people’s livelihoods, environment and culture by embarking on experimental seabed mining without understanding the potential impacts on the regions fish and fisheries, according to a South Pacific Community research proposal.
    The major research project will look at the potential impacts of seabed mining on fisheries across all the 15 island states of Polynesia, Melanesia (including PNG) and Micronesia.
    “There are still many uncertainties about the environmental, socioeconomic and technical risks and potential impacts that DSM might have on Pacific island environments, economies, societies and cultures”, says the SPC.
    In particular there are, “significant concerns about the potential impacts of DSM [Deep Sea Mining] on fisheries and fishery resources”.
    This is particularly worrying, says the SPC, “given the extremely high importance of fisheries, including commercial, artisinal and subsistence fisheries, to Pacific Island economies, societies and cultural identities”.
    But while the Pacific Community will be investigating the impact experimental seabed mining could have on vital fish stocks, Papua New Guinea has already licensed the first seabed mine and poured K110 million of tax payers money into building the mining machines.
    How could a responsible government sanction an experimental new form of mining when its potential impacts on a vital resource are still unknown?
    Clearly PNG is playing a dangerous game allowing mining to go ahead while all these risks are unquantified.
    The SPC also states:
    “Pacific Island countries have limited governance and institutional capacity to assess, regulate and manage proposals for DSM”.
    This is very clearly the case in PNG, given its history of failure in managing its terrestrial mines and the environmental catastrophes such as Ok Tedi, Panguna, Porgera, Tolukuma and Sinivit.
    If PNG can’t control the impacts of mining on the land, and clearly has very limited governance and institutional capacity, how can it possibly hope to manage the unknown impacts of mining 1500 metres below the surface of the sea?
    The SPC study will include all the potential environmental, ecological, operational, economic, social and cultural impacts of exploration and mining on fisheries and fisheries resources.
    The study lists the emissions and discharges from mining and explorations activities that could affect fish and fish stocks as ‘underwater noise, solid liquid and gaseous wastes, pollution, effluent, light emissions and turbidity and sedimentation’.
    The study is expected to take six months and should be completed later this year.
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