While much of the media is focused on the potential for lunar and asteroid mining, a number of companies are within a couple of years of starting to mine the seabed floor here on Earth, according to ZME Science. As it turns out, more resources necessary to keep a technological civilization prospering exists on the ocean floor than ever existed on land. Naturally, a number of environmental groups are gearing up to stop seabed mining before it starts.

A Canadian firm called Nautilus Mining seems set to be the first to unleash a trio of mining robots, each several hundred tons, by about 2019.

The mining robots would traverse the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea into the Bismark Sea to chew up the seafloor with rock crushing devices to get at rich stores of copper, nickel, cobalt, gold, and platinum among other minerals. Estimates suggest that enough minerals exist under the ocean to sustain civilization for thousands of years.

Naturally, a number of environmental groups are opposed to seabed mining, at least until further study is done. The main fear is that the plume of silt that the mining robots will create will harm the ecosystem, getting toxic materials into the food chain.

Nautilus downplays this danger, pointing out that their mining robots are designed to minimize the effects of silt plumes.

An Australian environmental group called Deep Sea Mining Campaign is not claiming that environmental damage by deep sea mining operations is inevitable, just that the risks are too unknown for it to be allowed to proceed. Nevertheless, the group is calling for an indefinite ban on mining the ocean floor.

The controversy that has arisen has become one that has become all too familiar starting in the latter part of the 20th Century. On one side, a company is proposing to make money by exploiting resources for the betterment of humankind. On the other side, environmentalists are arrayed to stop the company to save the planet from such exploitation and what it sees as its horrible effects. How far the environmentalists are prepared to go is a question that has yet to be answered.

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