News / Asia

Ocean Floor is Prime Target of Mining Industry

This undated photo shows a diver off Australia's coast.
This undated photo shows a diver off Australia's coast.
Phil Mercer
There has been a new call for the incoming government in Papua New Guinea to stop the Canadian mining company Nautilus from going ahead with a deep sea mining project.  Conservationists say most mining projects in the country have been an environmental disaster.  In recent years, there has been a rush by companies to explore the sea floor for concentrated deposits of valuable minerals found around hydrothermal vents.


The next great frontier for the mining industry could be hydrothermal vents that lie deep on the ocean floor.  The super-hot flues create deposits of sulfide, which contain precious metals such as gold, silver, copper and zinc.
 
Chris Yeats, an ore deposit geologist at Australia's state-sponsored scientific and research organization, CSIRO, believes that plans by Nautilus Minerals, which has a license to mine sulfide on the floor of the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea, will be safe and productive.
 
"The activities that Nautilus are proposing are something like plowing a field or raking your garden, that you're, you're, you're stirring up the environment, but you're not fundamentally changing it," said Yeats.

Nautilus has not commented on its plans, nor on calls for authorities in Papua New Guinea to abandon the deep sea project, which would involve sophisticated marine technology.
 
Stefan Williams from the University of Sydney's Australian Center for Field Robotics is helping exploration companies peer into the dark depths of the ocean.  
 
"One of the main challenges obviously [is] the environment, then pressures that are associated with depths, so actually getting equipment into deep water it has to be designed to withstand those kinds of pressures and corrosive environment of saltwater," said Williams.   

His work on vehicles capable of high-resolution surveys of the sea floor is casting light on a mysterious world.

"There's not a lot down there.  It's kind of a big, muddy flat plain for the most part but then you come across some weird and wonderful sea life, things [you] just don't know what to make of - pretty astounding," explained Williams.
 
Asked whether he thinks this is an area ripe for exploration in the future, Williams was optimistic.
 
"I think so.  There are a lot of areas of the ocean that we don't know a lot about," he said.  "Some people have suggested we know a lot more about the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean just because it's something we can see.  And so I think there will be good opportunities for extensive exploration and understanding what resources are available in these deep-sea environments and the possibility, I guess, of exploiting those in the future."      
 
Cindy Lee Van Dover, a professor of biological oceanography, has explored almost all of the world's hydrothermal vent fields.  Chains of these mineral-rich outlets lie along fault lines, including the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
 
She says that the precise impact of deep-sea mining needs to be known before the exploitation of such valuable resources can begin.
 
"If mining of extraction of metals on the seabed takes place, we'd like to know what happens and how quickly the animals come back," she said.  "We'd like to work with industry to understand what baselines we really need to put in place to be able to monitor the change as the animals come back and recolonize.  If one site recovers from mining very quickly in a matter of years or decades, maybe that's not such a bad thing, but we need to understand how to know that."   
 
Seabed mining used to be far too expensive to be worthwhile, but there are concerns from conservationists that advances in technology, making mining more feasible, pose a threat to the world's oceans.
 
The success or failure of the Nautilus deep sea project is seen as crucial to the future of deep-sea mining, according to Charles Roche, the executive director of the Australia-based Mineral Policy Institute.
 
"This is not going to be a bonanza," said Roche.  "It is going to be a very small mine actually, especially compared to some of the larger terrestrial mines.  It's really a trial mine.  It's an experimental one that the locals in Papua New Guinea like to call it that they are guinea pigs - that it's an experimental mine.  So really this is about proving the technology and the concept.  What they are trying to do is prove that we can extract the minerals from the bottom of the sea and it is economically viable."    

The first commercial deep-sea mine is expected to begin in Papua New Guinea next year and exploration is booming across the South Pacific and in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
 
International regulators set up by the United Nations have signed four new contracts with groups looking to explore the ocean floor.  This includes agreements with government and private organizations from China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs