The entire excerpt of The Diplomat article:
The Deep Sea Resources Rush
Source: The Diplomat
Exploitation of seafloor minerals appears imminent. But we do really understand the potential impact?Insatiable demand for minerals and rare earth elements, coupled with dwindling resources on land have stakeholders across the world looking to a new frontier: the deep sea. Advancing mining technologies are making the prospect of exploiting seafloor minerals—including gold, copper, zinc, cobalt and rare earth elements (REEs)—not only possible but also imminent, with commercial licenses to be granted by the International Seabed Authority from 2016.
China has a stronghold on REEs, controlling a staggering 97% of global production. These finite elements and other precious minerals are used in the creation of a massive range of electronics devices, emerging green technologies and weapon systems, triggering a strategic scramble to exploit new sources.
In what has been described as a global race, governments and companies are keenly eyeing this emerging mining arena, eager to get their slice of the next “gold rush” as it’s made increasingly economically viable. In 2010, there were eight exploration licenses, currently there are 17 in the high seas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. There is also significant interest in the ocean’s resources within territorial waters, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, where more than 1.5 million sq km of the seafloor is currently under exploration license. This is an area roughly comparable to the state of Queensland in Australia.
The president of the International Marine Minerals Society, Dr. Georgy Cherkashov, was quoted last year linking the rush for licenses to the reality of “first come, first get,” saying the shuffle to secure the most promising sites represents “the last redivision of the world.”
Three types of deep sea mineral deposits have drawn interest. These are seafloor massive sulphides (SMS), manganese nodules and cobalt-rich crusts. In the Pacific Ocean, currently the most commercially feasible are SMS, which are created by the activity of deep sea hydrothermal vents.