Deep-sea Mining for Battery Materials May Cause Noise Pollution

Deep-sea Mining for Battery Materials May Cause Noise Pollution

Deep-sea Mining for Battery Materials May Cause Noise Pollution

The race to find a solution to protect the ocean abyss is on as deep-sea mining operations are looking to extract minerals such as copper, cobalt, and nickel from the sea floor. However, there is one potential risk to the deep-sea environment that needs to fall under the microscope. Not only will mining create a lot of noise, but also dredge up the seafloor, thereby posing its own issues for marine life.

Mining the deep seas for minerals has been a hot topic for experts for decades. The very first efforts to capture polymetallic nodules at the bottom of the ocean could begin in earnest as soon as 2023 on the back of surging need for more minerals for usage in batteries and everyday electric gadgets. Such mining operations can create loud noises that can negatively affect marine life present hundreds of kilometers away.

The noise can also be even louder or equivalent to a rock concert within nearly 6 kilometers of a mine. It is expected to surpass the given limit of 120 dB that, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service can negatively influence behaviors of marine mammals. The noise can also travel up to 500 kilometers, where it would reduce, but, during fair weather, it can be still louder than ambient noise levels.

As per Craig Smith, professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii, the biggest surprise for him was how far the noise levels of deep-sea mining can reach. He further mentioned that the noise may be non-stop and can be produced 24/7 for years and even for decades. Unlike the noise at busy ports which is mainly at the water surface, deep-sea mining would create a ruckus all the way down to the bottom of the ocean floor. The noise from pumps, dredges, and vessels to bring sediments and nodules up to the surface can cause troubles.

On account of this, whales passing through the area may have a hard time to communicate with each other. As per Smith, marine animals like whales may decide to avoid visiting these areas, which can further impact their migration process. But, researchers still don’t exactly know how it is set to affect marine life. Mankind still doesn’t know a lot of information about life in the ocean. A large number of animals that researchers brought up from expeditions to 4,000 meters or deeper are totally new to science.

Smith further declared that he would like to conduct more research work on anemones, mollusks, worms, and crustaceans and find out how sensitive these animals are to noise. Some of the marine animals have naturally developed robust sensory systems that enable them to utilize noise or vibrations to find prey and mates, as well as avoid predators.

Smith and his colleagues are compelling mining contractors to launch more data on sound produced from their mining equipment. They have mentioned that extensive research is required to move forward with the work.

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