Mining Ocean Floor Resources
On April 20, 2010, the mobile floating drilling platform named Deepwater Horizon exploded while working on a 10,680-meter (35,000-foot) well in approximately 1600 meters (5200 feet) of water, causing a devastating oil spill. Eleven crewmen were killed in the explosion. The spill is considered by most biological oceanographers to be the worst in U.S. history. The resulting pollution had a huge negative impact on marine organisms, birds, and the millions of people whose livelihoods were, directly and indirectly, related to Gulf Coast fishing and tourism.
In addition to oil and natural gas, the ocean floor has the potential to provide invaluable resources to the global population. Several of these resources (gas hydrates, sand and gravel, evaporative salts and manganese nodules) are briefly discussed in Chapter 13 of your text. Although these resources are known to exist and to have a potential economic value of billions of dollars, many scientists argue that extraction should not begin until potential environmental impacts of ocean floor mining are known. There also are many questions about the ownership of ocean-floor resources that lie within international waters.
Regulation of ocean floor resources falls under the auspices of the United Nations International Seabed Authority. The following 2016 article from the UN Chronicle covers the history and current regulatory responsibilities of this organization.
Despite the UN efforts, there continues to be concern over the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining. The following is a 2019 article on this topic from the prestigious journal Nature.
An even more recent article (January/February 2020) in The Atlantic provides more detail on current seabed mining plans and the complexities of understanding mining impacts on ocean-floor ecosystems.
For this assignment, you are to write an essay either supporting or opposing large-scale ocean floor mining programs in United States territorial waters. Your essay must be 1 to 2 pages in length (double-spaced, 12-point aerial or Calibri font, one-inch margins) and must include discussion of both potential benefits and potential dangers. You may include a map, but it may count as only one-fourth of one page. A reference list must be included at the end of your essay but does not count toward the two-page requirement. It is important that your essay be fact-based. In addition to the above resources, the following articles provide good information on current deep-sea mining technologies and environmental research.
Hi there! Click one of our representatives below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.