Rod Fujita can’t disguise his frustration. “David Heydon and Nautilus are about to make the same mistake made during the development of every other industry in history.” says Fujita, a senior scientist for Environmental Defense. “We’re letting him rush into this without studying the impacts. That was forgivable 100 years ago. It’s not now.”
Fujita has tried to alert the world to Heydon’s plans. He has called the Nature Conservancy and Greenpeace to warn them, but they showed little interest. “It hasn’t been in the news, and the mining happens where no one can see it, so maybe they don’t think it’s for real,” Fujita says. “But if it’s going to be regulated, we’ve got to set those regulations in place before they start mining, which means now.”
Fujita’s main concern is that the marine environment surrounding extinct black smokers is not well understood. Active smokers have been closely studied, and Nautilus agrees that their ecosystems are too rare to be mined (and the corrosive effluent makes them more challenging anyway). But the long line of extinct smokers stretching away from active vents has barely been investigated by scientists. Researchers don’t know what species are down there, much less how mining might affect them. “This has the potential to be more environmentally destructive than terrestrial mining,” Fujita says. He explains that giant clouds of silt could be carried across the ocean, a kind of under-water acid rain that wipes out life as it goes. “I like to call it oceanic smog,” says David Helvarg, one of the few other environmentalists tracking the issue. “It could take up to 40 years for the sediment to settle.”
Heydon has a ready answer. “The environmentalists think that we’re running out of ore on land, so now we’re going to rape and pillage the sea,” Heydon says. “It’s just a reaction — it’s not thought through.”
Read the whole article and decide for yourself.