There is more to deep sea mining than technology …Photo: Konrad Janik, Pixabay

There is more to deep sea mining than technology …

Ethical issues may influence our thinking on deep sea minerals exploration and exploitation. That comes in addition to technological challenges.

“The potential environmental, social and economic impacts of deep sea mining can be addressed empirically by natural sciences such as marine biology, geology and ecology, as well as by social sciences and economics, or by a combination of these sciences,” says Dr. Siri Granum Carson, Director at NTNU Oceans and Professor in applied ethics at NTNU

How to assess or evaluate the results of these scientific studies, she advocates, is very much an ethical question.

She explains this with the following example:

“If the marine biologist finds that certain species may be endangered by a mining project, questions of the following form arise: Can the expected benefits to humans from mining justify endangering the species? How should we consider the relation between the value of the species and the value of human welfare in this case? Does the act of causing a species to go extinct violate important moral principles?”

And the other way around:

“If a combination of geotechnical and economic studies indicates that a mining operation may show a significant profit, questions arise as to how these calculations should be balanced against the environmental damage that the operations may cause.”

“The reason this is so important is that many of the people who support the new energy technological revolution of non-fossil fuels and renewables, electric vehicles, conservation and efficiency , also care about the social issues that many of these technologies incorporate in their wake – corruption, environmental pollution, extreme poverty and child labor,”says James Conca in an article in Forbes.

“Not the image sought by people at the shade-grown coffee shop surfing the internet for free-range eggs on their iPhones,” he adds sarcastically.

“These questions cannot be answered by the sciences themselves; ethical reflection is needed in order to guide policies and regulations,” Dr. Siri Granum Carson says.

Dr. Siri Granum Carson will give a keynote at the forthcoming conference NCS Exploration – Deep Sea Minerals in Bergen, October 19-21: “Ethics of Deep Sea Mining“. Carson will also be a panelist in the following discussion about “licence to operate”. Other speakers in this session include Dr. Wanfei Qiu, Programme Manager for Marine Environment at International Seabed Authority, Fredrik Myhre, Marine Biologist and Senior Advisor at WWF-Norway, Jens Laugesen, Chief Specialist Environment at DNV, Kris De Bruyne, Project Manager at Global Sea Mineral Resources NV, and Thomas Peacock, Professor at MIT.