Mining the deep sea

Mining critical minerals on the seafloor could speed up the energy transition — but it could also harm deep-sea ecosystems.

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

The good news: The Clarion-Clipperton Zone contains more nickel than the rest of the world’s nickel reserves combined. It also has significant resources of high-grade lithium, copper and rare earth metals, all of which are critical for the batteries the world needs to meet Paris Agreement climate targets.

The bad news: The CCZ lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and contains biodiverse ecosystems that we know very little about — and which we could profoundly harm if we mine in the area.

The CCZ lies between Hawaii and Mexico and is about half the size of the continental United States. And it’s just one of many potential deep-sea sources of critical minerals.

Should we mine the deep sea to fight climate change? And if we do, how do we also protect seafloor ecosystems?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Renee Grogan, an expert in deep-sea mining. She is a co-founder and board director at Impossible Metals.

They cover topics including:

  • The different types of seafloor resources, including polymetallic nodules, cobalt ferromanganese crusts and massive sulfides.

  • Cultivating a better understanding of seafloor ecosystems and incorporating science into mining practices and regulations, including selective harvesting, protected areas and offsets.

  • The challenges of enforcing regulations 3 to 5 kilometers below the surface of the ocean.

  • Ongoing negotiations at the International Seabed Authority, which was planning to finalize regulations for deep-sea mining last week, but announced that it needed more time.

Recommended resources:

  • NYT: Pacific seabed mining delayed as international agency finalizes rules

  • Forbes: Deep sea mining: The biggest climate issue you’ve never heard of

  • British Geological Survey: Deep-sea mining evidence review 

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.

Catalyst is supported by RE+. RE+ is more than just the largest clean energy event — it’s a catalyst for industry innovation designed to supercharge business growth in the clean energy economy. Learn more: re-plus.com.