Humans Are Digging Up The Ocean To Find Rare Minerals For EV Car Batteries

Electric Vehicles / Comments

The mining sector need to find new sources of rare metals and minerals - and the Ocean is apparently full of them.

The federal government is pledging billions of dollars for charging infrastructure, and manufacturers are continuously improving battery technology, but at what cost? The mining of nickel and cobalt is having a serious impact on the environment, causing mass species die-offs, and tearing local communities apart, just so that we can test 0-60 mph times in the new Tesla Model S . Now mass exploitation is heading to one of the planet's most sensitive and endangered parts: the ocean.

The mining industry simply cannot keep up with the demand for the precious metals used in the manufacturing of EV batteries, but the sea may hold the answer to capitalists' insatiable needs. According to The Metals Company, the ocean floor between Hawaii and Mexico produces excellent yields in nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, copper, and manganese. After only a 60-minute operation, the company claims it can mine 14 tonnes of metal-containing rocks at a depth of 150 meters.


The area where the mining is concentrated is called the abyssal plain, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This plain covers 70 percent of the ocean floor and is the largest habitat on planet Earth.

According to a 2020 report from the Nature science journal, there are over a quarter billion tons of nickel within a half-a-million square kilometer radius in an area of the ocean called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. It's nearly three times as much as what is available on land, and there's over 500 percent more cobalt down there too.

This might seem like a dream come true for profit-hungry manufacturers, governments, and mining companies, but the glaring truth is that mining these reserves is damaging one of the most critical areas of biodiversity on the face of planet Earth and one that we rely on for much of our food. These new mining operations are being staunchly opposed by organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

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"Considering the risks we face for climate change, biodiversity loss, and economic and social disruption, we should not proceed as though we are lemmings at the edge of a cliff, ready to launch another destructive industry in the already stressed oceans, a cornerstone of life on earth," said Greenpeace's Arlo Hemphill in a recent statement. Mining representatives argue that the need for these materials outweighs the damage being done through ocean mining.

"We believe it is foolhardy and irresponsible to propose a ban on seabed mining without having a credible alternative roadmap for sourcing these metals. The status quo of terrestrial mining becomes riskier and more environmentally and socially damaging every day. We do not yet have access to the volume of critical minerals required through recycling," said Impossible Metals co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer Renee Grogan.

Most major manufacturers, including BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Renault, and Rivian, have all signed on to the moratorium on deep-sea mining created in late 2021 by the WWF, but for now, it seems like humankind's shortsightedness and greed will once again trump the future sustainability of our planet.

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