Coun­tries are delv­ing deeper into the ocean to ex­plore its min­eral wealth. The de­posits on the ocean floor are enor­mous and the ecol­ogy of this largest habi­tat on earth, un­ex­plored. The high seas are also global common prop­erty that de­mand an eq­ui­table di


Coun­tries are dis­rupt­ing marine ecol­ogy by delv­ing deeper into the oceans for min­er­als

DEEP INSIDE the ocean is a world as vi­brant and rich as the one out­side. There are moun­tain ranges, ridges, forests, seamounts, vol­ca­noes and a unique ecol­ogy that de­fies common knowl­edge. For ex­am­ple, life here thrives with­out sun­light. This barely ex­plored ter­ri­tory is also be­lieved to hold vast quan­ti­ties of pre­cious met­als and min­er­als that can sus­tain the mod­ern world for cen­turies.

So when the In­ter­na­tional Seabed Au­thor­ity (isa) is­sued seven new li­cences in the last week of July to ex­plore for the riches that lie on the floors of the Pa­cific, In­dian and At­lantic oceans, it sent rip­ples across the world. The UN body reg­u­lates ex­ploita­tion of the ocean floor beyond 370-kilo­me­tre ter­ri­to­rial lim­its to pre­vent a free-for-all. Sev­eral gov­ern­ments and the min­ing in­dus­try who have their eyes on the un­der­wa­ter riches hailed the an­nounce­ment, while sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists raised con­cerns about ven­tur­ing into this un­known ter­ri­tory.

Both state-owned and gov­ern­ment-spon­sored com­pa­nies from In­dia, France, Rus­sia, Ger­many, China, Sin­ga­pore and the UK had sought per­mis­sion for min­er­als prospect­ing in the high seas. Four li­cences have been granted for the Pa­cific Ocean—the Clar­ion Clipperton Zone be­tween Hawaii and Mex­ico and the Mag­el­lan Seamount in the north­west Pa­cific. Two li­cences are for the In­dian Ocean Ridge, while one for Rio Grande Rise in the south­ern At­lantic. Th­ese are sig­nif­i­cant chunks of seabed.One UK Seabed Re­sources, an English sub­sidiary of the US de­fence gi­ant Lock­heed Martin, has se­cured ex­plo­ration rights to an area larger than the en­tire UK.

By now the isa has opened up a vast 1.2 mil­lion square

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