Plans for the world's first deep sea mine are taking shape in the waters off Papua New Guinea (PNG). The ocean floor here is rich in gold, copper and other minerals in high demand around the world. However, some scientists warn that digging up the seabed will destroy marine life and threaten the way of the life of the coastal people of PNG, and Sir David Attenborough is among those objecting. BBC News science editor David Shukman reports.
Deep sea mining is a relatively new experimental method for retrieving rare heavy metals from the ocean floor. Nautilus Company has proposed to launch this untested form of mining under the depths of PNG's Bismarck Sea within the next year. In theory, this novel technique will identify and capture a previously unknown source of human wealth. However, it will come at a heavy cost.
Scientists forewarn that the damage caused by mining the ocean floor will be catastrophic to marine life. Upon reaching mineral rich seabed, these bulky steel machines will begin excavating, relentlessly upheaving coral and debris into the the surrounding biological system. The abnormally polluted, darkened waters will undoubtedly kill off most forms of photosynthetic life, causing a chain reaction of death all the way up the food chain. The introduction of deep sea mining in the region could mean the end to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, as David Attenborough, narrator of Planet Earth, laments.
This impending destruction of marine life will have an immeasurable impact on the indigenous coastal tribes of Papua New Guinea. These coastal communities truly depend on the sea for their culture and livelihood, as the steady but continuos supply of fish has provided nourishment to these people for millennia. However, with the rise of seabed mining, this reliable source of food will be threatened.
Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) has made considerable strides in uniting the people the people who call the Bismarck Sea part of home. KarKar, a large volcanic island off the northern coast of PNG, was the first region to fully band together against seabed mining. In doing so, they were able effectively petition and protest the untested method of mining. As a result, this organization of tribal communities was able to drive Nautilus Company out of their native waters permanently.
Image 1: Coastline of the beautiful Kavailo Village, one of the many villages of KarKar island who banded together to fight experimental seabed mining.
However, Nautilus still threatens the coastal communities of New Ireland and New Britain. In close coordination with The Alliance of Solwara Warriors, BRG has been working towards uniting the people of these islands so that they may follow KarKar's success in protecting their sea and way of life. But much work is still to be done.
If you would like to help protect the sanctity of the seas for coastal Papua New Guineans, donate to Land is Life or get involved with Salwara Warriors on Facebook!