As the global push for electric transportation grows, these metals have converted a remote underwater plain into a battleground over the hard decisions required to address climate change. A nascent industry of deep sea mining is growing to harvest these rocks. The industry’s first commercial mining applications may be filed in as little as two years despite incomplete regulations and unsettled science about mining’s effects.
Industry proponents say deep sea mining is more environmentally friendly than land-based mining, making it the best option in the face of looming mineral shortages for electric vehicles and a tight timeline to decarbonize transit. Marine and climate scientists counter that there’s scant data on the deep sea to gauge potential consequences for oceanic biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and that it would take decades of study to get a holistic assessment.