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  • a shift to a world that's no longer powered  by fossil fuels likely means we're going to  

  • rely more on batteries and the metals that make  them because land-based sources of these metals  

  • can meet the demand of a battery-powered world  private companies have turned their attention to  

  • the ocean floor but mining the murky depths  may come with a greater cost to the planet  

  • than it's worth terrestrial mining doesn't have  a perfect record it comes with a long list of  

  • environmental and human rights abuses including  pollution and child labor all this to dig up  

  • raw materials like nickel manganese and cobalt  that are necessary for our lithium-ion batteries  

  • some strategies for a carbon-free future depend on  making these batteries in much larger numbers and  

  • using them as a power source for electric cars  or a storage method for electricity generated  

  • by renewables but another source of these  materials could lie at the bottom of the ocean  

  • potato sized lumps called polymetallic nodules are  rich in manganese copper cobalt nickel and other  

  • precious metals and they're found in abundance  in some areas like the clarion clipperton zone  

  • that stretches from hawaii to mexico in this one  area alone known as the ccz nodules contain more  

  • nickel and cobalt than in all known land-based  sources combined there are a few reasons why  

  • we haven't scooped up those tempting little sea  nuggets one of them is technological between us  

  • and them there is a literal ocean and getting to  them is not a matter of just distance but pressure  

  • too the deep sea is usually defined as the water  200 meters below the surface and beyond every 10  

  • meters under water adds another atmosphere worth  of pressure and these nodules are often found  

  • below 3000 meters that means the machines that  harvest them would have to withstand more than  

  • 300 times more pressure than you or i feel  walking around on the surface the expense  

  • and engineering that would go into a sea floor  harvesting operation has long deterred anything  

  • beyond small scale exploration but after decades  of testing the technology to mine the ocean floor  

  • looks like it's maturing and ready for large scale  use for example one company nautilus minerals has  

  • developed this trio of machines two of them are  for crushing up ore before the third collects it  

  • mixes it with seawater and sends it to a pump  that lifts the slurry to vessels on the surface  

  • the other thing standing in the way of deep sea  mining is a lack of a legal framework nodule-rich  

  • areas like the ccz are in international waters  a united nations chartered organization called  

  • the international seabed authority or isa has  been working with 167 member states and the  

  • european union to hammer out the rules and best  practices for deep sea mining they could agree  

  • on terms by 2021. in the past decade though the  isa has issued almost 30 exploratory licenses  

  • but once the rules are finalized operations could  ramp up to an industrial scale as companies gear  

  • up to mine the ocean many scientists that study  the ocean depths warn that mining could be  

  • environmentally devastating just how devastating  we don't really know yet because of that intense  

  • pressure at the sea floor it's the most poorly  understood ecosystem on earth scientists didn't  

  • even think it could support much life beyondfew scavengers until 1977 when the first ecosystem  

  • around a hydrothermal vent was discovered  almost two and a half kilometers down even  

  • today marine biologists think we've only foundtiny fraction of the life that lives in the deep  

  • mining could wipe out organisms before we've  had the chance to discover them like microbes  

  • that have possible uses in medicine many microbes  actually live on poly metallic nodules which can  

  • take over 10 million years to form so once they're  extracted that habitat isn't coming back the waste  

  • slurry that's dumped back into the ocean once or  is extracted could also be a hazard if it's dumped  

  • high up in the water column it could possibly  drift for hundreds of kilometers and disrupt  

  • ecosystems far removed from the mining site  and the site itself could be scarred for years  

  • in 1989 scientists simulated a mining operation  by dragging plows across the sea floor and nearly  

  • three decades later the tracks are still there and  the microbe and animal populations haven't fully  

  • recovered some of those bacteria absorb carbon  from the environment so mining operations could  

  • set back some of the efforts to go green it's  an uncomfortable dilemma mining on land has a  

  • lot of known negatives but the impacts of deep sea  mining are unknown and potentially huge a future  

  • where carbon emissions are under control could  depend on having enough of these resources but  

  • who knows what irreversible harm we could do  getting them fortunately we're getting better  

  • at recycling these metals and other energy storage  solutions do exist besides lithium-ion batteries  

  • maybe a healthy sustainable energy future is  within our reach but it's going to require  

  • informed people making decisions and caring about  what happens to a part of the planet that most of  

  • us will never see poly metallic nodules form as  dissolved metals build up on organic materials  

  • and they often form around ancient shark teeth  if you want an idea of just how much remains  

  • undiscovered in the ocean check out marin's  video on 200 000 new viruses scientists didn't  

  • know existed here thanks for watching be sure to  subscribe and i'll see you next time on seeker

a shift to a world that's no longer powered  by fossil fuels likely means we're going to  

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B1 mining deep sea sea ocean cobalt nickel

The Uncomfortable Truth About Deep Sea Mining

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/18
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