Nautilus Minerals

Are we ready for the gold rush on the sea floor?

One firm reckons its planned sea-floor mines are more sustainable than those on land. But the diggers could destroy rare life and more.

THE submersible Alvin encountered its first “black smoker” 2000 metres deep off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. It was 1977, and the realisation that life could survive in pitch darkness next to deep sea hydrothermal vents was about to stun the world. Now we are returning to those vents, this time on the other side of the Pacific – and armed with diggers.

The hot water shooting out of these vents contains all sorts of dissolved precious metals. On contact with the cold ocean water, these immediately precipitate out, showering the vicinity with gold, silver, copper and more. Some want to tap into this booty, arguing that deep sea mining is not only lucrative, but also a more sustainable alternative to mineral extraction on land. But not everyone is convinced we can exploit the deep without damaging it. Read more in New Scientist.