Home Tech Instead of mining the deep sea, maybe people should just fix things

Instead of mining the deep sea, maybe people should just fix things

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Instead of mining the deep sea, maybe people should just fix things

Barron responds that life in the abyssal zone is less abundant than in an ecosystem like the rainforests of Indonesia, where a large number of nickel mines operate—although scientists discovered 5,000 new species in the CCZ only in 2023. Consider it the lesser of two evils.

“At the end of the day, it’s not that easy.” You can’t just say no to something. If you say no to this, you are saying yes to something else.”


Barron and others argue that this ecosystem disruption is the only way to access the minerals needed to fuel the cleantech revolution and is therefore worth the cost in the long term. But Proctor and the others behind the report are not convinced. They say that without investing fully in a circular economy that thinks more carefully about the resources we use, we will continue to burn the minerals needed for renewable technology in the same way we have burned fossil fuels.

“I had this initial reaction when I heard about deep sea mining,” Proctor says. “Like, ‘Oh, really? ‘Do you want to mine the bottom of the ocean to build electronic devices that manufacturers say we should all throw away?’”

While mining companies can wax poetic about using critical minerals to build clean technology, there’s no guarantee the minerals will actually end up there. They are also commonly used in much more consumer-oriented devices, such as phones, laptops, headphones, and the aforementioned disposable vaping cartridges. Many of these devices are not designed to be durable or repairable. In many cases, big companies like Apple and Microsoft have actively pushed to make their devices harder to repair, virtually guaranteeing that more will end up in landfills.

“I spend every day raising my hands in frustration at the amount of ridiculous, irreparable, disposable electronic devices that are being handed out to people with active measures to prevent them from being able to reuse them,” Proctor says. “If these are really critical materials, why do they end up in things that we’re told are instantly trash?”

The report aims to position critical minerals in e-waste and products as an “abundant domestic resource.” The way to take advantage of this is to recommit to the old mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, with a couple of additions. The report adds the concept of repairing and reinventing products to the list, calling them the five Rs. It requires making active efforts to extend the useful life of products and investing in “second life” opportunities for technologies such as solar panels and recycling batteries that have reached the end of their useful life. (EV batteries used to be difficult to recycle, but more advanced battery materials can often work as well as new ones, if you recycle them correctly.)

Treasures in the trash

The problem is thinking about these deep-sea rocks in the same framework as fossil fuels. What may seem like an abundant resource now will seem much more finite in the future.

“There’s a bit of irony, right, in that we think it’s easier to go out and mine and potentially destroy one of the most mysterious remote natural spaces left on this planet just to get more metals that we’re throwing away every day. ” says Lamp.

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