An Environmental Article from

The Dark Depths of Deep Sea Mining

From Captain Paul Watson Foundation
November 2023

It was estimated that if all the then planned mining projects were allowed to proceed and are in operation by the mid-Eighties that by the end of the century, several hundred thousand square miles of the Pacific could be contaminated. Fortunately for economic and political reasons that prediction was not realized. Yet now nearly half a century later, that threat now has the potential to be unleashed.

Paul Watson

I’m going to step back in time to April 1977 to Pier 32 in Honolulu where I watched a cargo of potato sized rocks discharge from a Liberian registered mining ship named the Sedco 445.

John L. Shaw, the President and General Manager of Ocean Management Inc., gave me a guided tour of the Sedco 445, the first ship to carry out a deep sea mining operation.

The Sedco 445 had just returned for a mining site 800 to 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii where it had brought up a continuous stream of material from a depth of 17,000 feet or three miles.

I picked up a rock that resembled a black potato and Mr. Shaw informed me that each of these rocks took over 200-million years to form on the seabed and contained up to thirty different minerals with three quarters of the content of each nodule being nickel.

According to Shaw, the nodules formed over millions of years as falling debris like sharks’ teeth or fish bones acting as a nuclei to gather trace minerals. The estimate is that the nodules grow about one millimeter every thousand years and in some areas of the benthic seabed there are billions of these potato sized rocks and each one is teeming with minute marine organisms.

The exploratory voyages were inspired by John L. Mero in 1965 with his estimate of vast ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) nodules in the Pacific Ocean. He speculated that the Pacific seabed contained a limitless supply of metals including manganese, copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, zinc, and molybdenum. That was enough to make huge mining interests salivate with the possibilities for exploitation.


Please read the ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE.


Return to Environment Articles
Read more at Fishes and Other Sea Animals Articles