Source: abc7 News
Author: Juan Carlos Guerrero
While zero-emission vehicles are being touted as one solution to our climate crisis, their batteries could also represent an environmental hazard. There’s concern about mining for minerals like cobalt, copper, manganese and nickel that are used in car batteries on the ocean floor. These minerals are found in abundance along a zone that spans from Hawaii to Mexico. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is co-sponsoring legislation to prohibit leases for mining within three miles of the California coast. It’s hoping that inspires bans further into the deep ocean.
“On the floor of the ocean, we have deep-sea corals which have been living for hundreds if not thousands of years,” said Amy Wolfrum, senior manager of California Ocean Policy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Wolfrum said sea animals in the deep ocean are the basis of the food chain for larger animals like whales and dolphins.
“Seabed mining destroys entire communities of animals and habitats as it grinds up the crust of the seabed to recover minerals that the mining companies would want to have,” adds Wolfrum.
Steve Haddock, a marine biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, is worried about the impact of seabed mining on the water column, the area of water below the surface and the bottom of the ocean.
Haddock explains that when the seafloor gets raked for minerals, the sediment is pumped up to a ship to extract the minerals. The remaining silt and mud are pumped back into the ocean where they can be carried by currents for up to 100 miles.
He fears that organisms that live in the water column will eat this non-nutritious sediment and essentially be starved for nutrients.
The sediment can also cloud the water column.
“These waters are so transparent that organisms can interact. Once you introduce this silt, it actually absorbs that blue light that they use to communicate and it’ll affect their feeding, finding mates and all kinds of processes that rely on bioluminescence in the water column,” said Haddock.
The good news is that auto manufacturers are being more responsive to environmental concerns while making zero-emission vehicles.
“EV proponents and EV drivers are choosing electric vehicles because they care at some level about the impacts. So this is a buyer group that is custom-built for building a new system of economy that is circular rather than linear,” explains Jennifer Krill.
In 2020, Tesla founder Elon Musk asked the mining industry to produce more nickel for zero-emission vehicles “in an environmentally sensitive way.”
This spring, BMW and Volvo backed a moratorium on deep-sea mining until the environmental impacts are fully understood. The two auto manufacturers made a commitment not to source any minerals from the seabed or to finance deep ocean mining.