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Deep-sea Mining can Damage Marine Ecosystem

'The mining operations will use a strip-mining approach to remove deposits within the top 20 metres of the seafloor, using remotely operated underwater mine cutters and a hydraulic pump system to transfer roughly two million tons of ore per year to the surface. These strips would be located approximately 500 meters to two kilometres from the active vents, but the cutting and pumping process will disgorge considerable amounts of fine sediment into the water columna serious problem for vent organisms that feed by filtering the water in their habitat,' he said.

But the process would also raise the concentrated nutrients from the deep sea to the relatively nutrient-poor surface waters of the ocean, causing algal blooms and potentially contaminating waters that support Papua New Guineas commercial fishing industry, as well as local subsistence fishers, he added.

'Depending on ocean currents, these nutrients could drift widely, disrupting the food chain and potentially damaging ecosystems that lie within other countries economic zones or in international waters. This poses additional problems, because while a state has the right to exploit its own resources, international environmental law decrees that it cannot damage the environment beyond its boundaries,' said Prof. Halfar.

The study appears in the May 18 issue of the journal Science, and is co-authored by Rodney Fujita, a marine ecologist with Environmental Defense.


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