Rare earth minerals are crucial for our technologically-based economy; they are needed for many products, from your smart phone to your laptop computer. One area of concern for environmental groups that analyze coastal and ocean issues is deep sea mining – something that previously has not been economically-feasible, but with advances in technology and an increased shortage of rare minerals, deep sea mining will soon be widespread.
Ocean vents are one possible source for rare earth minerals, as are seamounts (mountains that extend upwards from the deep ocean floor). There is a UN organization that is responsible for managing the seabed (the International Seabed Authority), an organization instituted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is an important international convention that the United States has not signed, resulting in minimal participation in the future decisions that will be made on issues like deep sea mining. This is an issue that we need to follow more closely; and we should definitely sign and ratify the UNCLOS.
(originally published on lozada.davidson.edu, 28 July 2011)