Calif. Environmental Group Sues to Stop Deep-Sea Mining
SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco-based environmental law firm is suing the federal government to stop a deep-sea mining project in the waters between Hawaii and Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity is challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's decision to issue permits to a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin.
Plaintiff's attorney Emily Jeffers says the permits would allow the company to explore the deep seabed before completing the environmental impact studies required by federal law.
"It's a pristine environment and until the mining companies and the government can show they can mine without causing significant environmental impacts, we shouldn't be giving mining companies carte blanche to go ahead and despoil the ecosystem," says Jeffers.
There are no deep-sea mining operations anywhere in the world, yet, but more than a dozen have been permitted for exploration by the International Seabed Authority.
Rare earth minerals like zinc, copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese are used in consumer electronics and this is driving the push toward deep-sea mining. Lockheed says the venture is strategically important for western countries because China has a near monopoly on the valuable minerals.
Jeffers says the giant cutting machines used in deep-sea mining could smother bottom dwellers, interrupt communication between sea turtles, and damage habitat for whales and sharks. She wants the U.S. to put environmental concerns first.
"It's very important we do these environmental analyses before we issue the permits because once mining companies are allowed to make investments in deep-sea mining it's much harder to build in environmental safeguards post-hoc," Jeffers says.
The court is expected to issue a ruling in about a year.