Cindy Lee Van Dover is one of the few people on Earth to have actually seen the denizens of the deep up close.

In territorial waters standards are developing „ad hoc“, says Van Dover, who has done research for Nautilus, which has funded studies on the impacts of their proposed deep-sea mining operation in waters off Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea’s national environment agency „has not yet set aside sea floor vent ecosystems for conservation in any systematic manner that might protect biodiversity from the effects of mining,“ she says.

Van Dover would prefer vents to be off limits but says commercial pressures, and rising prices for minerals, make deep-sea mining almost inevitable.

There is an „urgent need“ to establish regulations and conservation guidelines before mining begins in international waters, says Van Dover. And she says countries allowing mining in their waters should comply with global conservation targets, adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Nautilus officials declined interview requests but said in an email statement that deep-sea mining „offers many potential advantages compared to land-based operations“ since the deposits are richer, will generate less waste and „minimal social disturbance in that no one needs to be relocated from the extraction site.“

Nautilus says it has plans to minimize the environmental impact of its proposed mine, which include “ relocating some animals out of the path of extraction“ and taking measures to „aid in animal population recovery.“

Van Dover acknowledged Nautilus‘ efforts but says „we still don’t know how best to mitigate mining activities or to restore habitats in the deep sea.“

There several reasons, she says, for „deferring wholesale commercial mining until proper conservation plans are enacted.“

Quelle und vollständiger Artikel: „Regulations ‚urgently needed‘ as mining companies eye sea floor“ in Times Colonist 02. Februar 2011