Marine Life Hyrdothermal vents are teeming with marine life, such as giant tubeworms.

Published on July 15th, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


China Plans Deep Sea Mining of Copper, Nickel, Cobalt, Silver, and Gold in International Waters

The demand for metals used in the production of electronic devices, such as cellular phones and laptop computers, has pushed China to the deep sea.  Searching for copper, nickel, cobalt, silver and gold, the Chinese want to explore inactive hydrothermal vents at a depth of over 5,000 feet in international waters.  Environmentalists fear marine pollution.

Photo by NOAA, Ocean ExplorerHyrdothermal vents are teeming with marine life, such as giant tubeworms.

Hyrdothermal vents are teeming with marine life, such as giant tubeworms.

Hydrothermal vents are geysers, like Old Faithful, existing on the ocean floor. The University of Delaware explains:

How do hydrothermal vents form? In some areas along the Mid-Ocean Ridge, the huge plates that form the Earth’s crust are moving apart, causing deep cracks in the ocean floor. Seawater seeps into these openings and is heated by the molten rock, or magma, beneath the crust. As the water heats up, it rises…

Chimneys top some vents. These smokestacks are formed from dissolved metals that precipitate out (form into particles) when the super-hot vent water meets the surrounding seawater, which is only a few degrees above freezing.

China has filed the first application to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for deep-sea mining in the Indian Ocean.  Although it has not been approved yet, there is concern it will open the door for more permits in international waters.  Given the risks of working at such depths, evident in the Gulf Oil Spill, environmentalists are concerned, especially when many of the sought after metals are considered heavy and toxic. The Independent describes the concern:

Although no one knows exactly what damage a deep-sea mine would do to the marine ecosystem, experts have no doubt that removing a considerable part of the sea floor would cause a major disturbance.

Not only that, but plumes of sediment – which may well be toxic – could have an impact over a much wider area, especially for filter-feeding marine organisms, which are common on the seabed. Such plumes might also block out light, hindering the development of plankton.

China already has a monopoly on rare earth metals, and the demand for metals is growing as technology, including green tech, demands it.  Are the risks of marine pollution from deep-sea mining acceptable?   ISA will decide in April 2011.

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About the Author

Jennifer lives on 160 acres off-the-grid in a home built with her own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) from forest fire salvaged timber. Her home is powered by a micro-hydro turbine, and she has been a vegetarian for 21 years. Jennifer graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in art education and has been teaching art to children for over 16 years. She also spent five years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse before becoming the mother of two beautiful children. Jennifer has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently teaching preschool, as well as k-8 art. She enjoys writing, gardening, hiking, practicing yoga, and raising four akitas. Jennifer is the founder and editor of Eco Child's Play ( "I’ve always been concerned about the earth and our impact upon it. Now that I have children, I feel compelled to raise them with green values. From organic gardening to alternative energy, my family tries to leave a small carbon footprint." Please visit my other blog:

2 Responses to China Plans Deep Sea Mining of Copper, Nickel, Cobalt, Silver, and Gold in International Waters

  1. Jon says:

    Yeah f***ing right. Send your lemmings elsewhere china.

  2. MArkus says:

    Looks like someone is going to need a temporal ea/saline water displasion equation set list with a gigantic electromagnetic field conductor and resonator….hmmmm pinky hand me a drill bit…..dont forget vaccumes to cleaqn up your mess… the way the chinese will be looking for a lot more than just base metals as we all know…..there is much more than base metals try the heavier ones like you know high grade…ryms with cranium…..

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