Seabed mining: The next big business

Seabed mining: The next big business

Global revenues could be US$ billions per year

Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Many possibilities exist for Jamaica to expand its economy via the seabed, according to Michael Lodge, secretary general of the International Seabed Authority.

“Through partnerships and access to research, which already exists, there are many possibilities for Jamaica,” he said, citing opportunities for small island states like Jamaica to benefit from seabed mining.

The Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority was speaking recently at a meeting of the Rotary Club of St Andrew North held at the Altamont Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He said that 29 exploratory licences have been issued by the authority up to now, which shows that there is a private and public sector interest in accessing supplies of metals in a more environmentally sustainable way, to meet increasing global demand.

According to Lodge, following explorations by those already licensed and when mining begins, the annual global revenues of the activity could be several billions of US dollars per year.

Among the countries that have participated in obtaining contracts from the International Seabed Authority for exploration of the seabed is Nauru, in the South Pacific, which has a total population of 8,000 people.

“The global seabed represents approximately 50 per cent of planet earth and contains significantly more mineral reserves than are now accessible on land,” he told the Rotarians and guests.

Lodge said technological advances have led to increased demand for particular metals used in the manufacture of products such as telephones, computers and electric vehicles. An example is the high level of demand for cobalt, which currently sells at US$60,000 per metric ton, due to an impending supply gap is readily available from under the seas and oceans.

In the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean alone there are 20 times more potential reserves of copper, cobalt, nickel and manganese than on land, and this area has been the focus of exploration work over several decades, Lodge said. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) spans 4.5 million square kilometres (1.7 million square miles) between Hawaii and Mexico, an abyssal plain as wide as the continental United States and punctuated by seamounts.

However, he pointed out that there were several challenges to taking full advantage of the mining opportunities, including the fact that mining the oceans is still a new business, together with technological needs, very high cost of extraction and processing, extreme depth and remoteness of mining locations.

The International Seabed Authority is headquartered in Kingston and was created in 1982 by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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