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The Blue Economy: The Impact of Deep Seabed Mining for Ocean Minerals

More than a million square miles of the deep sea’s floor have remained untouched for millennia. But that is changing rapidly. Industry and alternative energy solutions drive the rising demands for ocean minerals. Seabed mining also offers an attractive solution as deforestation criticisms rise and terrestrial supplies decline.

But seabed mining isn’t without its own set of risks. There is very little known about the ocean floor. When the search for ocean minerals broadens, there will be a disruption among exotic creatures and unusual habitats. It will impact coastal regions through ecosystem changes.  How can a healthy balance be struck, one that will allow access these valuable ocean minerals without creating irreversible harm? This is the most pressing question as seabed mining activities escalate.

Seabed Mining Today and the Demand for Ocean Minerals

For decades, there has been a recognition of the presence of precious ocean minerals. But only in the last few years have deep sea activities markedly advanced. In part, this has resulted from advances in technology. Remote-operated vehicles, robotics, and communication technology are among the most notable advances facilitating these practices. But more so, there is a heightened demand for ocean minerals.

Alternative energy solutions have triggered a major source of demand for ocean chemical. For example, electric vehicles require batteries that utilize lithium. Hybrid cars require ample amounts of lead. Platinum, as well,  is utilized by hydrogen-powered vehicles. As these and other alternative energy forms increase in use, land-based resources will naturally decline. And with complaints about the terrestrial ecosystem disruption that mining causes, industries will find seabed mining less cumbersome.

ocean minerals, riccardo puliti quoted
Seabed mining holds great promise in terms of acquiring resources, but it’s folly to do so by depleting another vital resource.

Ocean Minerals and Nations that Might Benefit from Seabed Mining

The attractive aspect of seabed mining involves the rich ocean mineral deposits present. Polymetallic nodules line the deep ocean floor that is as deep as 18,000 feet below sea level. These nodules contain a variety of ocean minerals, including manganese, iron, copper, cobalt, and nickel.

Likewise, hydrothermal vents also exist along the deep seabed allowing the sequestering of carbon and methane. This facilitates the formation of these polymetallic nodules in addition to providing unique habitats for ocean life.

Polymetallic nodules are naturally rich in ocean minerals. And the presence of several minerals in one nodule makes seabed mining highly efficient. Several countries have such resources near their coastlines.

Chile and Peru have copper and lithium ocean minerals. South Africa and Guinea enjoy an abundance of platinum, manganese, bauxite, and chromium. The waters off China and India have essentially all ocean minerals in demand.

But concerns over seabed mining are rising.

ocean minerals, craig smith quoted
The impact of deep sea mining is expected to be massive.

Environmental and Social Impact of Seabed Mining

Though demand for ocean minerals increases, many express concerns over the impact seabed mining will create. From an environmental perspective, the polymetallic nodules and deep ocean floor represent unique habitats. Free from vibration, light, noise, and water currents, seabed mining would disrupt these ecosystems. In addition, seabed mining creates sediment plumes that could have detrimental effects. And given the fact that these nodules grow only a few millimeters over millions of years, sustainability is a major issue.

Environmental effects of seabed mining are certain to occur, but their exact impact is unknown. However, the social impact for those living along coastal regions and beyond might be even greater. Disruption of ocean ecosystems and hydrothermal vents could affect climate change. As as result, it might also affect secondary coastal activities.

ocean minerals, julian aguon quoted
The human environment will have a fair share of the negative impact of seabed mining and it’s worth the attention.

Proactive Pursuits in Seabed Mining Regulations and Practices

In 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea formed the International Seabed Authority. This entity oversees all activities regarding ocean minerals and seabed mining outside of nations’ coastal water jurisdictions. It is therefore their task to licence seabed mining activities for ocean minerals in open waters. To date, the International Seabed Authority has issued 29 such licenses with the majority off the coasts of Japan and Papua New Guinea. More and more are applying.

With the rise in seabed mining licensing, several organizations and projects are actively researching safer and more sustainable practices. For example, the EU launched the MIDAS project in 2013 to create a responsible framework for seabed mining practices. A sequential approach involving study, surveys, exploration, testing, appraisal, rehabilitation and long-term monitoring was devised.

Similarly, the Blue Mining Project is an international consortium of 19 enterprises and research organizations. It seeks to identify sustainable blue mining solutions. These collaborations hope to better guide the ISA and seabed mining companies in advancing responsible environmental and social practices.

Acquiring Ocean Minerals Sustainably and Responsibly

To say the waters surrounding seabed mining are still quite murky is perhaps an understatement. The problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Oceanographic researchers are hard at work to explore these ecosystems, but access is challenging. And knowing which seabed mining solutions are most protective of the environment and coastal regions is difficult. In looking ahead, collaborative projects will help guide best practices and regulations. But business solutions will also be needed as part of the advancing blue economy

 

For more on Bold Business’ series on the Blue Economy, check out this story on creating a sustainable future.

A Healthy Gut Diet Plan and the Weight of Things to Come

The Human Microbiome Project was launched in 2007 with the goal of analyzing the human microbiome and its role in human health and diseases. While experts and practitioners are aware that the bacterial cells outnumber human cells by tenfold, the characteristics and diversity of the human microbiota are mostly unknown. Through this study, understanding of how a healthy gut diet plan can influence a person’s overall health has deepened. With over one hundred thousand genes thriving inside the human body, what we know of the human microbiome is just the tip of the iceberg.

restoring your digestive health, claire fraser quoted
A healthy gut diet plan begins with understanding the importance of gut bacteria.

What Makes A Healthy Gut?

Restoring your digestive health means creating a good mix of bacteria in your gut. Ideally, there should be at least 400 to 500 species of microbes within a person’s gut. However, this number can vary from one individual to another and from one race to another. They include:

  • The Firmicutes are the bacteria responsible for energy extraction from food. Individuals with a high-fat diet have higher levels of Firmicutes in their gut. Growing infants and children can benefit from Firmicutes. Efficient harvesting of energy from the food they eat will help nourish growing children.
  • The Bacteroidetes (along with the Firmicutes,) make up 90% of the human gut microbiota. They help lower fat deposition by converting carbohydrates to short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Short chain fatty acids are crucial in many metabolic processes. SCFAs can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity.
  • A relatively small presence of Proteobacteria in the gut is healthy. However, an increase of Proteobacteria is indicative of dysbiosis. An increase in fat consumption has been linked to the rise in Proteobacteria.
  • Actinobacteria, which includes probiotic heavyweight Bifidobacterium, can restore the balance of bacteria, production of vitamins and improvement of the mucosal gut lining.

A Lifestyle that Hinders Gut Health

Our gut bacteria are under constant stress. The body’s response to life’s daily stressors can include a weakened immune system, lower appetite, and inflammation. Similarly, immediately turning to antibiotics and over-medicating contributes to our gut bacteria’s dysbiosis.

However, the modern diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and low in fiber has been negatively impacting our gut health. The National Center for Health Statistics of 2016 estimates that 93.3 million adults suffer from obesity. It’s not hard to understand why obesity-related health issues such as heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes are the leading causes of death. Clearly, looking at what you eat and starting a healthy gut diet plan and finally restoring your digestive health.

restoring your digestive health, justin sonnenburg quoted
Restoring your digestive health is often the first step in restoring overall health.

Restoring Your Digestive Health Starts with a Healthy Gut Diet Plan

A malleable and highly-individual microbiota supports the claim that a healthy gut diet plan is central to restoring your digestive health and personal well-being. With this in mind, a number of innovative companies have been pursuing the path towards a healthier gut.

  • Nature’s Way was the result of Tom Murdock’s quest for a healthy gut diet plan as a way to improve his wife’s health. Fifty years since the company was founded in 1969, Nature’s Way is now regarded as a preeminent brand of quality dietary supplements, with over 1,000 products.
  • Blue Planet Chocolate brings 250 million live spores per chocolate square. That’s probiotics for your gut health for every bite.
  • Probi is a world leader in probiotics founded in Sweden back in 1991. Now a multinational company in three continents, Probi presents a wide range of dietary, food, and beverage products.
  • Good Belly Probiotics believes that health starts in your belly. Their product line-up includes juice drinks, shots, probiotics-infused drinks, protein shakes, nutrition bars, and supplements. With a wide range of choices, a healthy gut diet plan is within reach.
restoring your digestive health, peter turnbaugh quoted
Given the complexity of the gut’s bacteria makeup, you might assume restoring your digestive health is futile… but it’s not.

A robust and thriving gut microbiome is essential to overall health. The bacteria in our gut help us extract energy and nutrients from our food and aid in the production of essential vitamins and amino acids. We can also count on these bacteria to help regulate our immune system and protect us against disease-causing microbes and pathogens. With all these benefits, formulating a healthy gut diet plan is a crucial step towards restoring your digestive health.

 

For more of Bold Business’ series on gut health, check out this story on Dr. Steven Gundry or this one on  functional dyspepsia treatment