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Deep sea dilemma. Nature magazine.

Screenshot 2020-03-10 at 14.05.20Plans are advancing to harvest precious ores from the ocean floor, but scientists say that companies have not tested them enough to avoid devastating damage.

In 1972, a young ecologist named Hjalmar Thiel ventured to a remote part of the Pacific Ocean known as the Clarion–Clipperton Zone (CCZ). The sea floor there boasts one of the world’s largest untapped collections of rare-earth elements. Some 4,000 metres below the ocean surface, the abyssal ooze of the CCZ holds trillions of polymetallic nodules — potato-sized deposits loaded with copper, nickel, manganese and other precious ores.

Thiel was interested in the region’s largely unstudied meiofauna — the tiny animals that live on and between the nodules. His travel companions — prospective miners — were more eager to harvest its riches. “We had a lot of fights,” he says.

Read the article in full in the July 24, 2019 issue of Nature.

Olive Heffernan

Olive Heffernan is a London-based freelance environment writer. Olive mostly writes about climate change and its impacts, but also writes more broadly on sustainable resource use. Here you can find an archive of her recent articles, link to her Twitter feed and her blog.

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