The promise and risks of deep-sea mining

By Daisy Chung, Ernest Scheyder and Clare Trainor

(Reuters) - The International Seabed Authority is working to set regulations for deep-sea mining as companies engaged in the clean energy transition clamor for more minerals. That transition will be a central focus at the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.

The seafloor, especially in parts of the Pacific Ocean, is covered by potato-shaped rocks known as polymetallic nodules that are filled with metals used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Many scientists say it's unclear whether and to what extent removing these nodules could damage the ocean’s ecosystem. Automaker BMW, tech giant Google and even Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest mining company, have called for a temporary ban on the practice.

The metals in those nodules can be used to build electric vehicle (EV) batteries, cell phones, solar panels and other electronic devices. They are separate from rare earths, a group of 17 metals also used in EVs.

With climate change escalating, governments are under pressure to rein in emissions – especially from the transportation sector, which was responsible for about 20% of global emissions in 2022.

By 2040, the world will need to use twice the amount of these metals as it is using today in order to meet global energy transition targets, according to the International Energy Agency. And the world will need at least four times today's amount in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Learn more here: GRAPHIC-The promise and risks of deep-sea mining

(Editing by Julia Wolfe, Katy Daigle and Claudia Parsons)