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Daily News Analysis

New coral species discovered on seabed marked for deep-sea mining

31st October, 2020 Environment

Context: Three species of black coral have been discovered on the seabed of the northern Pacific Ocean, an area where several countries have contracts to explore for metals including cobalt and nickel as they race to find new supplies of the key battery elements.

  • The corals were discovered on deep seamounts and ridges in the mineral-rich Prime Crust Zone, which stretches from the Mariana Trench to the Hawaiian islands,
  • The new black coral species are so named because of their black skeletons, but they can appear pink, white, or various other colours because of the living tissues growing over the skeleton.
  • Previous studies have found a black coral species more than 4,250 years old.
  • “These long-living corals are much like the redwoods of the ocean.
  • They're not only slow-growing and long-lived, but also provide important habitat for many other species,”

‘Deep-sea mining could destroy as yet undiscovered species’

  • China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea all hold exploration contracts in the Prime Crust Zone, according to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a U.N. body in charge of regulating the ocean floors.
  • Environmentalists have called for a ban on deep-sea mining which would extract prized resources including cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese from seabed nodules and crusts.
  • Deep-sea mining could destroy as yet undiscovered species.
  • Only around 20% of the ocean floor has been mapped to date, according to Conservation International.

International Seabed Authority

  • It is a U.N. body in charge of regulating the ocean floors.
  • The Jamaica-headquartered ISA has drawn up regulations on exploration but has yet to establish the rules for exploitation needed for deep-sea mining to go ahead.