Undersea Strategic Minerals Mining : Huge Upside, Environmental Peril

Environmental advocates made an impassioned plea to the UN for a novel request: a moratorium on deep-sea mining. This call comes amid both forthcoming international meetings on the subject scheduled for 2024 and the rapid, albeit quiet, explosion of interest in deep-sea mining. Once a topic for science fiction, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has already issued 30 seabed exploration licenses (with the most – 6 – going to China). This is only the beginning of a race that will upend the energy market and geopolitics.

The seabed contains most of the periodic table, including nickel, cobalt, gold, silver, zinc, lithium, and copper, in potato-sized, polymetallic nodules that sit on the sea floor. These nodules contain many Rare Earth Elements (REEs), which are crucial for emerging green energy production and cutting-edge technology such as semiconductors and AI. These strategic metals are seeing an exponential rise in demand due to the green transition, generating geopolitical competition and financial interests in them just as fierce as oil in the 20th century.

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