Do you know? In order to build the cell phone computer battery, people are going to hollow out the ocean.

From the Venetian’s marine wedding to the “sea moon, the world at this time”, since ancient times, human beings are either in awe of the sea or full of romantic feelings. However, when technology breaks the myth of nature, everything changes quietly. In order to absorb natural resources, after land exploitation, the interests driven, the big companies put their tentacles into the depths of the sea. It is rich in mineral deposits and has been home to countless unknown creatures for thousands of years. The cost of geometry, only heaven knows.

The following is the In-depth report of The Atlantic Monthly on seabed exploration and exploitation:

Most people who are not suffering from chronic anxiety or are trapped in the despair of nihilism probably won’t bother thinking about the bottom of the sea. In our imagination, the sea floor is like a vast sandy beach. But in fact, the sea floor is the same as the land landscape, there are flat, high mountains, there are stretches of canyons, hot springs from the rock seams flow, there are a lot of salt water from the hillside seeping into the undersea lakes.

These alpine canyons also contain most of the same minerals found on land. The earliest recorded deposits by scientists date back to 1868, when a fishing boat salvaged a large piece of iron ore from the seabed in northern Russia. Five years later, another ship found a similar mine in the Atlantic Ocean, and two years later, a similar mine was discovered on the pacific floor. For more than a century, oceanographers have been discovering new minerals on the ocean floor – copper, nickel, silver, platinum, gold, and even gemstones. At the same time, mining companies are looking for a practical way to exploit these deposits.

Today, many of the world’s largest mining companies have launched underwater mining projects. On Africa’s west coast, the diamond company De Beers Group is using a professional fleet of tow machines to search for underwater diamonds. In 2018, the vessels mined 1.4 million carats of diamonds from Namibia’s coastal waters, and in 2019, Dellbys signed a new ship that could search the ocean floor at twice the efficiency of other vessels. Another company, Nautilus Minerals, is working in Papua New Guinea’s territorial waters in an attempt to extract precious metals hidden beneath the seabed, while Japan and South Korea are also working on their own national projects to mine their own offshore deposits. But for these mining companies, the best chance is to enter the high seas, which cover more than half of the world’s seabed and contain more minerals than the earth’s seven continents combined.

There are no formal regulations governing marine mining. The United Nations entrusted the task to an unknown organization called the International Seabed Authority (ISA). The group is located in two light grey office buildings on the edge of Kingston Harbour, Jamaica. Unlike most United Nations agencies, ISAs are virtually unsupervised and are divided into “autonomous” bodies, under the management of the organization’s own Secretary-General, who holds his own annual general meeting at ISA headquarters for about a week. Representatives from 168 member states will flock to Kingston Harbour from all over the world to gather at the semi-round table of the Great Hall of the Jamaica Convention Centre. Their task is not to organize seabed mining, but to minimize the harm caused by mining – to select locations where mining is permitted, to issue licences to mining companies, and to draft technical and environmental standards for underwater mining guidelines.

It is not easy to write guidelines. Members of the ISA have struggled to agree on a regulatory framework, and while they discuss the details of waste disposal and conservation, ISA has issued “mining” permits around the world. About 30 mineral contractors have been granted permits to mine in vast waters such as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. One of the sites is 2,300 miles east of Florida, which contains the largest undersea hot spring system ever discovered, and the towering white spires form a ghostly landscape that scientists call the “Lost City.” The other site stretches 4,500 miles under the Pacific Ocean, about a fifth of the Earth’s circumference. Companies with licences to explore these areas easily get a large amount of financing. They designed and built experimental vehicles, and then sent them to the bottom of the ocean, testing excavation and mining methods while waiting for ISA to refine mining guidelines and open the door to commercial mining.

These companies, operating at full capacity, are expected to excavate thousands of square miles a year. Their mining tools will methodically crawl along the sea floor, excavating five inches of the uppermost layer of the seabed. Sea vessels use hoses to suck thousands of pounds of sediment into the sea, remove metal objects (i.e. polymetallic stone mines), and then dump the remaining sediment back into the sea. Some siltcontains toxic substances, such as mercury and lead, and being dumped directly into the sea can contaminate the surrounding waters for hundreds of miles. Some silt drifts with ocean currents until they are deposited in nearby ecosystems. An early study by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences predicted that each mine would release about 2 million cubic feet of emissions a day, enough to fill a 16-mile freight train. Even so, the authors call it a “conservative estimate, ” and other predictions are three times as much as the study. But regardless of the way it is predicted, the authors conclude: “There will be a large area covered by these sediments in the future, so much so that many animals will not be able to cope with the effects of the sediments, and the entire community will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.” “

Delegates gathered at the 2019 ISA conference to review mining guidelines. Officials hope the document will be approved and implemented by 2020. On a warm and pleasant morning, I flew to Jamaica to observe the proceedings. On arrival, I found the conference center full of delegates. Through the maze of corridors, a staff member took me to meet Michael Lodge, the SECRETARy-general of the ISA, a half-century-old British man with a lean, short hair, a smile and a kindness. He waved to me to take my seat. At the window overlooking the port, we began to discuss mining guidelines, what they were allowed and prohibited from, and why the United Nations was prepared to mobilize the largest mining operation in history.

Explore the Super Abyss Belt

Marine biologists have been paying little attention to the deep sea. They think the rugged hills and cliffs of the sea floor are almost grassy. Traditional forms of life on Earth depend on photosynthesis: plants on land and in shallow water thrive with sunlight, and these plants feed on organisms large and small, from the entire food chain to Sunday feasts. Therefore, we can say that the survival of all animals on Earth depends on the solar energy absorbed by plants. But with no plants and no sunlight a few hundred feet below sea level, it is natural to assume that a thriving ecosystem is almost impossible under the deep sea. Perhaps organic debris floats on the surface of the sea, but it can only sustain a very small number of life-hardened floating water.

It wasn’t until 1977, when two oceanographers began exploring the Pacific Ocean in underwater tools, an idea that was completely overturned. While exploring a series of underwater mountains near the Galapagos Islands, they found a deep-sea hot spring about 8,000 feet deep. Although geologists theoretically believe such deep-sea hot springs may exist, no one has ever witnessed them before. The two oceanographers then made an even more startling discovery around the mouth: a large number of animals gathered around the hot spring mouth. They are not the deep-sea waste pickers that people have long imagined; instead, they include giant clams, purple octopuses, white crabs and 10-foot-long tube worms, whose food chains do not start with plants, but from organic chemicals gushing out of hot springs.

For biologists, all this represents more than curiosity. The discovery almost shook the foundations of their entire field. If plant-deficient environments can also breed complex ecosystems, then evolution is no longer an ecological issue. Life could occur in an environment that is completely dark, quarterly hot, toxic – an environment that could wipe out all known life on Earth. “This is a real discovery, ” says Timothy Shank, an evolutionary biologist. ” Now we can speculate that the methane lake on Jupiter’s moons could also give birth to life, and there is no doubt that life could exist on other planets as well. “

That winter, Shank was 12 years old and still a nerd in North Carolina. The dream of space exploration at a young age has been gradually lost, but the rich life found near the hot spring of the deep sea has brought oceanography enough to satisfy Shank’s endless imagination. After completing his degree in marine biology, Shank went on to earn a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution. He has read extensively papers published by scientists around the world, all of which relate to the discovery of new springs filled with unknown species. All of these springs are located on the bottom of the sea – the deepest known mouths are three miles below the bottom of the ocean, and another geological feature, known as the “cold spring of the seafloor”, allows life to flourish in chemical pools deeper than the bottom of the sea. No one knows if there are any unknown hot springs or cold springs deeper, but Shank decided to study the deepest known waters on Earth all day.

Scientists divide the ocean into five layers based on its depth. The closest thing to the sea is the photosynthesis belt, where the plants are lush, followed by the Twilight Belt, the area where darkness falls, and then the “deep belt”, where some of the creatures that live can self-glow; and then the frozen plain “abyss belt”. For more than half a century, oceanographers have explored the four layers with underwater tools, leaving only the last hard-to-reach, the “super-abyss zone”, whose English name, “hadal zone”, is named after Hades, the king of the underworld in ancient Greek mythology. The Super abyss belt contains all the waters below 6,000 meters (or 20,000 feet) below sea level. The Super Abyss Belt, because of its depth, often involves various trenches, but there are also some deep-sea plainsections within the Super Abyss Zone.

The deep-sea plains are also rich in polymetallic stone deposits that explorers first discovered more than 150 years ago. Mining companies believe that stone mines are easier to mine than other subsea deposits. But in order to extract metal from deep-sea hot springs or underwater mountains, they must first break rocks in a similar way to land-based mining. Stone ore is located on the bottom of the sea isolated rock, small like a golf ball, as large as grapefruit, can be more easily extracted from sediment. Stone mines are rich in a variety of minerals. Although there is no shortage of precious metals such as gold and silver in hot springs and mountains, the main metals in stone ore are copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt, all of which are important materials in modern batteries. The popularity of iPhones, laptops and electric cars has boosted demand for such metals, leading many to believe that stone ore is the key to humanity’s move from fossil fuels to battery power.

ISA also issues more permits for stone mining than other undersea mining licences. Most of these permits authorize contractors to mine individual deep-sea plains. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), for example, stretches from Hawaii to Mexico, covering a total area of 1.7 million square miles, wider than the continental United States. With the adoption of the mining guidelines, more than a dozen companies will accelerate their exploration of CCZ until they are made on an industrial scale. Their ships and robots will use vacuum tubes to extract stone deposits and sediments from the sea floor, peel off metal minerals and dump debris into the sea. It is difficult to predict how many ecosystems such residual sediments will cover. The ocean currents fluctuate regularly in speed and direction, so the same silt currents will flow in different directions, moving distances and times are not the same. The effects of sediment reflux also depend on how they are released. The silt dumped near the sea will be farther than the drifting land that is dumped to the bottom of the sea. The draft mining guidelines in circulation do not specify the depth of the dumping. An ISA-approved estimate is that silt dumped near the surface will drift more than 62 miles from the dumping point, almost all experts believe the actual drift is farther. A new survey of academic research compiled by Greenpeace suggests that mining waste “can spread hundreds or even thousands of kilometres”.

Like many deep-sea plains, the CCZ section is located in the super-abyss zone. The eastern boundary of the CCZ is the Super Abyss Trench. No one can be sure that mining sediments do not drift into the super-abyss zone. Timothy Shank is currently the head of the Super Abyss Research Project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where he has been studying the deep sea for more than three decades. In 2014, he led an international expedition to complete the first systematic study of primitive ecosystems. Experienced as Shank, it remains unclear what impact mining sediments will have on the Super-Abyss Belt, which still knows nothing about the creatures contained in the Super-Abyss Belt. If you are interested in these questions, the study of Shank is a very suitable starting point, as humans know just so much about the deep sea, how difficult it is to study deep sea research, and what harm the industry can do before technology.

Ten years of preparation, a loss

I met Shank seven years ago. At that time, he was organizing an international fact-finding mission to study the Super Abyss. He developed a three-year plan to explore every trench: using robotic equipment to explore trench features, record each topographical outline, and collect samples from it. The idea is either brilliant or dark; Measuring the shallow waters alone has troubled scientists. For more than a century, they have used ropes and chains and acoustic instruments to record the depth of the seafloor, but 85 per cent of the world’s seabed is still unmapped – the super-abyss zone is harder to map than other regions because it is barely visible.

The development of modern tools still does not penetrate the deepest ocean, and if you are surprised, imagine the following 6-7 miles below the sea. Every 33 feet of depth increases a standard atmospheric pressure. That is, when you’re 66 feet below the surface, you’re going to be three times as atmospheric as land, and if it’s 300 feet below the surface, it’s 10 standard atmospheric pressures. Tube worms living near the hot spring mouth of the Galapagos Islands bear about 250 standard atmospheric pressures, while CCZ’s mining tools are subject to more than twice as much pressure as tube worms, but still less than half the pressure required in the deepest trenches.

Develop a tool that can operate at 36,000 feet underwater — meaning nearly 2 million pounds of pressure per square foot is still intact, and the amount of work is like an interstellar project. For example, making a Mars rover is much easier than this mission. Imagine you’re holding a sledgehammer once or more to beat the iPhone case from any angle, but the shell is still intact, or, to take a more intuitive case, few humans who have successfully landed on the moon have reached the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the planet.

In 1960, two men used the U.S. Navy’s sophisticated device to make their first attempt at an undersea landing. During the descent, the machine stops working and begins to tremble. The window broke under great pressure. The impact was too strong on landing, raised the silt, and the two stayed at the bottom of the sea for a full 20 minutes, because of the silt, nothing could be seen. Fifty years later, in 2012, film director James Cameron re-opened their adventure. Richard Branson, a long-time high-profile billionaire, had planned to dive into the Mariana Trench with a fighter-like cartoon aircraft. Mr Cameron is well versed in marine science and engineering, in contrast to the unreliable Branson. He has been deeply involved in the design of underwater tools and has contributed to a number of genius innovations, such as new bubbles that maintain buoyancy at different ocean depths. Even so, his ship shook violently as it fell and was crushed to deformation by the sea. Finally, after landing reluctantly, Mr Cameron spent several hours collecting samples and had to return to the sea early to cancel further dive plans after discovering that hydraulic oil had leaked into the window and the robotic arm failed and the right thruster went out. The damaged submarine was later donated to the Woods Hole Institute.

Do you know? In order to build the cell phone computer battery, people are going to hollow out the ocean.

3-D Modelling Of the Mariana Trench

The most recent adventure to explore the Mariana Trench was completed last spring by a private equity investor named Victor Vescovo. He spent $48 million on a more sophisticated submarine than Cameron’s. Viskovo, who plans to land in the world’s five deepest trenches, turned his personal adventure into the “Five Deeps.” He was able to successfully complete the adventure and dive into the depths of the Mariana Trench many times – if his achievements represented a breakthrough in the exploration of the Super abyss, it should not be forgotten that the exploration of the abyss was still out of reach: only the determined rich, the Hollywood redman and the special military project were able to access the mysterious region, even so. Each attempt can only land at a designated location, which does little to help us understand the rest of the film’s abyssed environment. The area consists of 33 trenches and 13 shallow formations known as “deep sea basins”. The total geographical area is about two-thirds of The Australian area. At its size, this region is also the least understood ecosystem of humanity on the entire planet.

When there were no tools to explore the super-abyss zone, scientists had to use primitive methods. One of the most common techniques that has barely changed in nearly a century: exploring ships sailing hundreds of miles to find an exact location, then dropping the trap, waiting hours to catch it to see the final harvest. The limitations of this approach are self-evident. It’s like hanging a birdcage under an airplane and flying over the African continent at 36,000 feet, and finally trying to find traces of animals on the prairie from insects captured in the cage.

Having said that, I just want to tell you that Shank’s plan to explore every trench in the world is bold and absurd. But he has a team of world-class experts, has enough ships to handle huge tasks, and has spent a decade designing the most advanced robotic tools for deep-sea exploration. The robot tool is named after the sea god Nereus. It can dive to the bottom of the ocean on its own, plan routes between rocky cliffs, measure the contours of the sea floor with Doppler scanners, record video with high-definition cameras and collect samples, or it can be connected to ships via fiber optic cables so that Shank can observe Niruse’s activity on a computer in the ship’s control room, pushing the thruster to change the course of the machine. Use the headlights to spy on the darkness and manipulate the mechanical claws to collect seafloor samples.

In 2013, a few months before the expedition began, I contacted Shank again and told him that I wanted to follow up on the project. Shank agreed to let me participate in the project at the rear. After the departure of Shank’s fleet in 2014, I followed the fleet’s route online, exploring the Kermadec Trench in the Pacific Ocean, where she was planning to send Neelys to the bottom of the ocean for a series of any. For the first time, the machine first drops to a depth of 6000 m, the upper boundary of the super-abyss belt, the second time, the machine dives to a depth of 7,000 meters, the third time, 8000 m, and the fourth 9,000 m. Shanke knows that diving to 10,000 meters is a key value. This is the last 1,000 meters of Earth’s depth: none of the known trenches are more than 11,000 meters deep. To mark the last addition to the depth and the successful start of the project, he put on a pair of silver bracelets for Nielos and intends to give them to his two daughters when he returns home. He then throws the robot into the water and returns to the control room to observe its movements.

As Nirvana dives all the way, the blue water on the screen turns black, and the robot’s headlights make the debris that floats in the water appear in its original shape. The screen suddenly went dark when it was 10 meters short of the dive depth of 10,000 meters. The control room was silent and breathing was clear, but everyone remained calm. It is relatively common to lose a video source during dive. Xu is a fiber-optic break, or the software fails, but in any case, Nejust’s program can respond to an emergency. It can get itself out of trouble, reduce self-weight, return itself to the water, and send a beep to help Shank’s team find the machine.

A few minutes passed, and Shank waited for the machine to start an emergency response, but nothing was sent. “No sound, no implosion, no ringing,” he later told me. It was dark. He walked around the deck all night, staring at the painted Black Sea to look for traces of Neelys. The next day, he finally saw some debris on the sea. As he looked at the wreckage, his heart sank little by little. Ten-year plans, $14 million robots, an entire team of international experts – seem to be so vulnerable under the weight of the super-abyss.

Two years later, as we stood on the deck of another ship, 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast, ready to release the new robot, Shank told me, “I’m still concerned about it.” “The new robot is not comparable to Nietos. It is a straight-line block made of metal and plastic, 5 feet high, 3 feet wide and 9 feet long. The top is red, the bottom is silver, and there are three fans at the rear, and if you don’t pay attention, one might mistake it for a spaceship toy thrown by a child in the backyard. Shank is under no illusions about whether the new robot can complete the hyper-abyss exploration. Since Neereus’s death, there has been no more tools to cross the deepest trench – Cameron’s machine has been decommissioned, Branson’s is simply not feasible, and Viskovo’s has not yet begun to be built.

But Shank’s new robot is not without new bright spots. Its navigation system is more advanced than Nietos’s, and Shank hopes it can operate with greater precision in the trench environment. But the robot’s fuselage is not designed to withstand super-abyss pressure. In fact, the big box never dived dozens of feet below the surface. Shank also understood in his mind that it would take years to build a machine that could withstand the pressure at the bottom of the trench. Two years ago, what seemed to be an effort to usher in a new era in deep-sea science ended in a Don Quixote-style tragedy. Fifty know the fate of The Sunk at this time can not help but wonder, another ten years to chase an increasingly distant dream is realistic. But the instincts that have been supporting him have never changed. Shank believes that exploring these trenches will be the greatest discovery ever made: a mysterious ecosystem that has given birth to countless unknown lives.

“If there are no hot springs or cold springs in these trenches, I don’t believe it,” he told me as we were busy on the water in 2016. I think we’re going to see countless new species that we’ve never seen before, some of them even huge. “He describes the deep-sea environment as an alien world with its own evolutionary process, and unimaginable pressures to create incredible beasts. “My life is limited, ” he said, “but I’m not a successor.” We still have a third of the oceans that have not yet been explored, which is embarrassing and regrettable. “

Human destruction

Although scientists are still trying to explore the deep sea, human influence is a step ahead. We are no strangers to the destruction of coastal waters: overfishing, oil spills and pollution, among others. But one thing that is often overlooked is how far-reaching these damage will have on the deep seabed.

Take the fishing industry, for example. At the beginning of the twentieth century, overfishing of cod led to a sharp decline in cod from Newfoundland to New England; Commercial fishing vessels around the world have had to move deeper into the sea when shallow fish such as North Atlantic cod, grouper and mackerel have fallen sharply in size, as has the cod. Before the 1970s, the herring lived in peace and security, leisurely traveling through the 6,000-foot-deep undersea hills. Then, a group of fishermen forced the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the fish, creating a wave of “tilapia” fever, a momentum that faded until the beginning of the twenty-first century, and the once-unknown herring is now almost extinct.

The environmental damage caused by oil production is also slowly invading deep-sea waters. The oil-contaminated beach photos have attracted much public attention since 1989. That year, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef and 11 million gallons of oil leaked, polluting vast areas of Alaskan waters. The accident has been the largest spill in U.S. waters for decades. Until 2010, another Deepwater Horizon deep-sea drilling platform exploded and 210 million gallons of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico. But a recent study showed that chemicals that were subsequently used to remove oil were twice as toxic to organisms 3,000 feet underwater as oil.

Perhaps the most worrying thing about these years is the plastic floats found in the ocean. Scientists estimate that about 17 billion pounds of polymer is washed into the ocean each year, mostly on the ocean floor, floating in a small minority. Just as a bottle of wine that rolls down from a picnic table falls down a hill into a rapids and into the sea, the rubbish on the ocean floor gradually moves toward deep-sea plains and deep-water trenches. After the trench adventure, Viskovo said he was shocked by the rubbish he saw in the depths of the ocean floor. He said he found a plastic bag at the bottom of a trench and a beverage can at the bottom of another trench, and when he reached the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, he saw an object with a large S-mark floating through the window. Deep in the sea, there is a pile of rubbish – trash cans, Budweisers, rubber gloves, even the heads of fake models.

But scientists are only just beginning to understand the effects of the waste on aquatic life. The digestive system of birds and fish cannot break down and exclude debris bags, which will remain in their stomachs after eating them. Nearly 88 pounds of plastic bags, nylon ropes and nets were removed from the whale’s belly during an autopsy after a juvenile whale ran aground on a Philippine beach in 2019. Two weeks later, another whale ran aground in Sardinia, with 48 pounds of plastic discs and straws in its stomach. Some corals prefer food but more like plastic bags. Like children who eat snacks, they eat only plastic bags instead of nutritious food. The number of microbes growing on plastics is also soaring, and the explosive growth in numbers has allowed them to replace other species.

If you think there’s not enough bacterial population statistics in the ocean to be afraid of, you probably don’t know that marine microbes are vital to human and earth’s health. One-third of the carbon dioxide produced on land is absorbed by underwater organisms, including a species just discovered in CCZ in 2018. The researchers who discovered the species did not know how it absorbed carbon from the environment, but their findings suggest that they contribute at least 10 percent of the ocean’s total carbon absorption each year.

Much of what we know about marine microbes comes from geneticist Craig Venter. Although Vent is known for competing with the Human Genome Project, his own interests are not limited to human DNA. He hopes to learn the language of genetics to create artificial microbes with practical functions. After completing the Human Genome Project, he spent two years traveling around the world, placing bottles in the ocean to collect bacteria and viruses in the water. By the time he returned, he had discovered thousands of new species. He began DNA sequencing of these species in his lab in Maryland, a process that found 60 million unique genes, more than 2,500 times the size of human genes. He and his team then began sifting through useful genes to make synthetic bugs.

Wentt now lives in an ultra-modern house in Southern California. One night sitting on his couch chatting, he described how saline microbes can help us solve the most pressing problems in modern life. A bacterium he extracts from the ocean absorbs carbon and expels methane. Vent hopes to integrate the bacteria’s genes into microbial DNA that is specifically parasitic in chimneys and during circulation. “They can absorb the carbon dioxide emitted by the plant and then convert it into methane that continues to be used as fuel for the plant, ” he said.

Wentt is also studying bacteria that are useful for medicine. Microbes can produce a variety of antibiotic compounds, which are their weapons of protection. Most of these compounds can also be used to kill pathogens infected with humans. Almost all antibiotic drugs on the market originate from microorganisms. But pathogens themselves also evolve and become immune to these antibiotics. “We’re working on new drugs,” Matt McCarthy, an infectious disease expert at Weill Cornell Medical School, told me. The problem is that bacteria can easily develop resistance to these drugs because the new drugs are very similar to those that have failed. What we need now is a whole new set of compounds. “

Vinter points out that the compounds produced by marine microorganisms are completely different from the ones produced by terrestrial microorganisms. “There are more than a million microbes per millilitre of seawater, so the chances of finding new antibiotics from the marine environment are very high,” he said. McCarthy agreed. “The next generation of superdrugs may be hiding deep in the ocean,” McCarthy said. We may find drugs to treat gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or other diseases. “

Marine biologists have yet to conduct a full survey of microbes in the super-abyss trench. Conventional water sampling tools do not work at extreme depths. Engineers have only just begun to develop such sampling tools. Microbiological research in the deep plains is a little more advanced. Scientists have only recently discovered that CCZ is rich in unusually rich species. “We’ve taken a lot of samples from the Abyss Plains, and there’s no more diversity in the species,” Jeff Drazen, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, told me. He added that most of the microbes here live on the stone mines that miners intend to mine. “When you salvage the ore from the bottom of the sea, a habitat that has settled for thousands of years is destroyed. “Whether these microbes will be found in other marine areas is still unknown. “A lot of less mobile microbes may not be found anywhere else, ” Drazan said. “

Drazen is an academic ecologist; There have been accusations that Mr. Vinter is trying to privatize human genes, and many critics say he is trying to play God’s role by creating new microbes. He is clearly not opposed to profit-driven scientific research, but he is not afraid to compete with nature. But he was shocked when I mentioned his view of the prospect of deep-sea mining. “In deep-sea mining, we have to be very careful, ” he said. ” It’s reckless to intervene and destroy these microbes and their effects before we understand them. “

Do you know? In order to build the cell phone computer battery, people are going to hollow out the ocean.

The Clarion-Clipperton Sea Belt of the Deep Plains

So-called “mining the ocean to save the planet”

Mining company executives insist there is a misunderstanding about their maritime work. The marine mining industry has been widely described as a passionate future adventure. John Parianos, exploration manager at Nautilus Mining, recently told me: “No man or his pet dog is not excited about the moon landing. It’s like Scott exploring the South Pole, or a British expedition beset by ice and snow. “

Nautilus’s position in the mining industry is very strange. It was one of the first companies to engage in seabed mining and the most unstable. Although Nautilus has been granted a permit from the Papua New Guinean government to extract metal minerals from offshore springs, residents of the islands near new Ireland have been fiercely opposed to the company’s mining project, saying it would destroy the marine habitat there. Local and international activists have spared no effort to promote negative publicity, drive away investors and plunge the company into financial crisis. Nautilus’ shares, which once were as high as $4.45, are now trading at less than a cent.

Mr Parianos admits that Nautilus is in crisis, but he thinks critics are naive. He said the seabed deposits were no different from any other natural resource. The use of natural resources is essential to human progress. “Look around you, either the fields are long or mined, ” he said, “that’s why we call it the Stone Age, because this is the time when humans started mining!” Mining makes our lives better than they were before the Stone Age. Parianos stressed that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which created ISA, is committed to “ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment” and reducing the impact of mining. “The law of the sea does not support marine damage,” he said, “but the law of the sea does not say that you can explore the oceans for scientific purposes, but not for profit-making purposes.” “

DeepGreen’s chief executive has a more lofty word. DeepGreen is both a product of Nautilus Mining and a response strategy for Nautilus Mining. David Heydon, founder of Nautilus, founded Nautilus Mining a decade ago, and in 2011, Hayden founded DeepGreen, a new company whose leadership is mostly a former Nautilus executive and investor. They are trying to position DeepGreen as a company with a mission to save the planet by mining the ocean. They have produced a series of luxury manuals to explain our new demand for battery metal resources. Gerard Barron, the company’s chief executive, is keen to promote the benefits of stone mining.

His view of seabed mining is straightforward. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, The planet will eventually be destroyed, and the transition to other forms of energy will lead to a significant increase in battery production, Says Behren. He cites electric cars: a battery for an electric car consumes 187 pounds of copper, 123 pounds of nickel, and 15 pounds of manganese and 15 pounds of cobalt. If we had a billion cars on earth, all of which would be converted into electric vehicles, all the available resources on land would not be able to meet those needs, and the exploitation of existing metal resources would have taken a huge toll. For example, most of the world’s cobalt mines are mined in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, thousands of children worked day and night in the mine, inhaling large amounts of toxic fumes. On-land nickel and copper mining also cause different damage to the environment. Since ISA needs to distribute some of the profits from seabed mining to developing countries, the industry as a whole needs to provide income to countries dependent on traditional mining for their livelihoods that do not affect their environment and the well-being of their people.

DeepGreen represents whether the value shift in mining companies or just a change in marketing is a question that we don’t say, but the company’s efforts are indisputable. DeepGreen did develop technology to minimize damage when sediments are dumped back to the bottom of the ocean, and Belen regularly attends ISA meetings, advocating regulations to enforce low-impact emissions. Deep Green has a kneaded approach to the mining of stone mines, and Belen has often publicly accused Nautilus’s colleagues of blasting subsea volcanoes that are still partially active. “The people of Nautilus, they do their things, I can’t handle it, but I don’t think what they’re doing is good for the planet,” he said. “

Once you go on, there’s no way back.

Before I sat down to talk to MICHAEL LODGE, the SECRETARy-general of the ISA, I was thinking about the arguments made by the executives. In my opinion, there is a cognitive problem with seabed mining. The dangers of burning fossil fuels and the impact of land-based mining are indisputable, but the cost of plundering marine resources is beyond every one’s knowledge. How many unknown creatures are there waiting to find out on the bottom of the sea? How many essential recovery options are there? And do we really have a way to assess the geomorphological value of what we know about it at the moment? The world is full of uncertain choices, yes, but the contrast between them has never been so stark: on the one hand, the climate change crisis and labour pressure, the inestimable risks and possibilities.

I think of the super abyss belt. It may never have been affected by mining. Sediments extracted from deep-sea plains may have settled long before they reached the edge of the trench – but the mystery of the whole of the super-abyss belt is always a reminder that little is known. From 20,000 feet below sea level to 36,000 feet, almost half of the ocean depth is far beyond our understanding. When I visited Shank in Woods Hole a few months ago, he showed me the latest prototype of the robot they had developed. He and his chief engineer, Casey Machado, designed the prototype robot with the help of a foam donated by Cameron and with the help of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s a miniature machine called Orpheus, a figure in ancient Greek mythology, that can travel between ditches, record terrain and collect samples, but there are no extra features other than that. This time, Shank is no longer able to control the machine or observe progress through the video source. Then my mind suddenly flashed a thought, if Shanke gave up the dream of exploring the trench, perhaps we really understand the super-abyss zone time will be pushed back for decades.

Mining companies may promise to do underwater operations with minimal damage to their surroundings, but believe these need to be believed. Human history, the iron laws of unintended consequences, and inevitable mistakes are all killing this belief. I would like to learn from Michael Lodge how, as a United Nations agency, it will choose to accept this risk.

“Why do you have to mine the ocean?” I asked.

He mused, frowned, and said, “I don’t know why you use the word ‘must’.” Why do you have to mine somewhere? Because there are mines, where to mine. “

I remind him that centuries of land mining have cost us dearly: tropical islands have been turned into wasteland, once lush hilltop rocks are exposed, groundwater is contaminated, species are extinct… I asked, given the enormous damage done by land mining, could we not hesitate to reach out to the sea?

“I think it’s a bit worrying, ” he shrugs, “and the mining area is bound to be affected because you’re creating environmental interference, but we can find a way to control it.” “I then pointed out that the sedimentdrift drifts with the ocean currents, affecting far away from the mine. He replied: “Yes, this is another major environmental issue. There are sediment streams, and we need to deal with this problem. We need to understand the principle of volume flow, and we are also experimenting and believe that we can help. “Between words, I realized that for Rocky, these issues didn’t need to be reflected – or that he didn’t think it was part of his job. As secretary-general of ISA, his mission is to promote mining, not to question whether it is right in itself.

We chatted for another 20 minutes, and after thanking him for his kindness, I went back to the meeting room. There, delegates have begun delivering speeches on the future of marine conservation and battery technology. Some of the details of the mining guidelines (technical requirements, regulatory processes, profit distribution models, etc.) remain subject to some disagreement, so it will take another year to vote on the guidelines. I noticed a group of scientists behind the conference room, members of the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative. The organization was established in 2013 to address threats to the deep-sea environment. One of them is Jeff Drazen. He had just arrived in Hawaii with a tired face. I sent him a text message and made an appointment to walk outside.

There were a few chairs and tables scattered in the yard. We found a place to sit down and chat. I asked him what he thought of the extension of the mining guidelines, which delegates intend to review this summer, after which large-scale mining operations might start.

“A Belgian team is now testing components in CCZ,” De la Zane sighed. They are going to run vehicles on the bottom of the sea and dig the earth. These things have happened. For thousands of years, humans have not been able to transform the earth’s surface, but this time on an unprecedented scale. What we’re mining is a lot of habitat, and once we go on, there’s no way back. “

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