Population growth and rising consumption, coupled with the need to decarbonize is forecast to trigger a dramatic surge in demand for minerals across industries – for example, automotive manufacturing, buildings and construction, energy generation and electronics. Many of the land-based sources for these minerals are proving to be increasingly difficult to access, and can be associated with complex social, political and environmental issues. Technological advancements combined with rising demand have opened the possibility for the feasible recovery of minerals from the deep ocean seabed triggering greater interest among private enterprise and countries.
The case for extracting seabed minerals is hotly debated, however. The environmental impacts of deep seabed mining on ocean ecosystems are not fully understood. A wide range of interested parties, including mining companies, industrial users of metal, environmental foundations, scientists, governments and individuals hold conflicting beliefs and opinions on whether or how to extract minerals from the seabed. The parties agree that it is essential to understand and manage any environmental and social impacts. At the same time, there are uncertainties and blind spots.
To move forward, stakeholders from multiple perspectives and disciplines must come together in a constructive, collaborative and open dialogue and move towards building a shared vision for if and how deep-sea mining contributes to our common future. The aim is to reach an informed and consensual agreement on the most responsible path forward.
The World Economic Forum invites stakeholders to take this opportunity, by establishing a joint starting point and systemic approach for urgently needed progress. To create a neutral and safe convening space, the World Economic Forum will create an independent, targeted framework to further the dialogue.
Ultimately, leaders must step up and contribute towards shaping the materials model, which will enable the transition to a low-carbon economy as well as reduce the pressure on our natural resources. With a significant number of deep-sea exploration efforts already underway, this is a debate that cannot wait. The decisions made now will have profound implications for generations to come.