“We are at the threshold of a new era of deep sea mining,” - said to the UK House of Commons in January by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire. He added a recent assessment of the Pacific Ocean has estimated over 27 billion tonnes of “rock nodules” —small mineral-rich rocks from the seabed— may be lying on its floor, including 290 million tonnes of copper, 340 million tonnes of nickel and an undetermined but immense amount of rare earth elements, among several other riches.
The demand for hard-to-find rare-earth elements needed for portable electronics and batteries for hybrid vehicles may push mining companies to scour the ocean floors in search of deposits.
Thanks to advancements in robotics, deep-sea mining is rapidly approaching, especially for rare earth minerals that can be difficult to find in commercial quantities elsewhere. "The deep ocean is a vast repository of resources, and looking over the long term - the next hundreds of years, say - we almost surely are going in there to mine," said Prof Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in San Diego, California.
"What we're trying to say is that we need to do this in a responsible way, and if we are going to extract these resources, we need to do it with the least amount of harm to ecosystems, and now is the time to start thinking about how we do that," she told BBC News.
Indeed, thinking about a potential problem before we're faced with it would be the smart way to go about this.
Watch the BBC report below...