Pacific Island Nations Considering Deep Sea Mining
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Pacific Island Nations Considering Deep Sea Mining

The Diplomat reported that Pacific Island nations are looking to the ocean to save them from the COVID-19 induced economic downturn. Some Pacific Island

The Diplomat reported that Pacific Island nations are looking to the ocean to save them from the COVID-19 induced economic downturn. Some Pacific Island nations, namely those that border the resource rich Clarion-Clipperton Zone, have begun sponsoring mining companies to take out licenses for deep-sea mining. The CCZ, which borders the territorial waters of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and Tonga, is a deep-sea trench approximately the size of Europe. It holds a calculated 21 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules that contain mostly manganese, but also iron, nickel, copper, titanium, and cobalt. Such metals are in increasing demand amid a push to develop batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy.

Despite it being nearly half a century since scientists and prospective miners discovered the lucrative mineral deposits on the floor of the ocean, little mining has taken place and few studies completed to understand the risks of such mining if it was to become a full-fledged industry. But the industry has picked up momentum in recent years, with mining companies now pouring millions into developing technology that would allow them to operate at the depths required. The COVID-19 induced economic downturn has also led to countries with access to deposits, such as the Cook Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, and Nauru, wanting to cash in.

According to the United Nations International Seabed Authority’s list of reserved areas” which ensures developing countries can access deep sea mineral resources, Tonga has sponsored contractor Tonga Offshore Mining Limited, Nauru has sponsored the Nauru Ocean Resources Inc, Kiribati has sponsored the Marawa Research and Exploration Ltd and the Cook Islands has sponsored the Cook Islands Investment Corporation. The four companies have a combined reserved area of about 120,000 square miles.

What the Pacific Island nations lack in landmass, they make up for in territorial waters. For instance, Kiribati ranks 172nd in the world for its land mass, but ranks 12th for the size of its exclusive economic zone, which takes into consideration a country’s authority over both land and water. Altogether, the Pacific Island nations, despite having a combined population of just 11 million, control nearly 12 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean across an area equivalent to around 15 percent of the globe’s surface. The ocean is of such importance to the Pacific Island countries that they’ve formed a collective identity around it, which has come to be known as the Blue Pacific. This serves to strengthen regional solidarity in the face of global powers’ efforts to influence them.

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