The bottom of the world's ocean contains vast supplies of precious metals and other resources, including gold, diamonds, and cobalt. Now, as the first deep-sea mining project ramps up, nations are trying to hammer out guidelines to ensure this new "gold rush" doesn't wreck the oceans.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS WOULD DEEP-SEA MINERS LOOK FOR?
The diamond conglomerate De Beers has been mining diamonds from shallow waters off southwest Africa since the 1960s, so harvesting diamonds from deeper water is a possibility. Precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper are also attractive targets.
So are useful metals like zinc and manganese, as well as rare earth materials such as cobalt, which are used in high-tech devices from cell phones to computers. As more of the world adopts advancing technology, these materials are likely to see rising demand, and supply on land is relatively limited (hence the name "rare earth").
The valuable materials are likely to occur in higher concentrations on the seafloor than in many land-based mines, experts predict. They appear in nodules that litter the seafloor and in crusts of manganese or sulfide deposits, especially near hydrothermal vents. These minerals can be found between a few hundred feet and about 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) down.
HOW MUCH IS DOWN THERE?
There is enough gold on the seafloor to give every person alive nine pounds, scientists estimate. That would be worth about $150 trillion, or $21,000 a person.
Source: National Geographic