Science

“Here, Belgium is destroying the ocean”: Greenpeace denounces the ravages of deep-sea mining, the Belgian company targeted defends itself

The organization Greenpeace attacks Belgium. She accuses him of supporting deep-sea mining in the Pacific Ocean by a Belgian company. A 25-ton robot, used by the company, was recently lost there. For conservationists, this industry represents a danger to underwater life.

Here, Belgium destroys the oceanA native of Ghent, An boarded a small boat to wave this unambiguous message on the open sea.

During her action, the activist targets a ship chartered by a Belgian company in the heart of the Pacific. She has been observing him for days on board the NGO Greenpeace boat. The company’s mining robot just crashed to the bottom of the sea. For An, that’s a warning.

The technical failure of GSR Deme’s mining robot shows how very risky this new industry that wants to exploit the seabed is. If it is not clear how the industry can control this type of robot, the question must also be asked about how to measure their environmental impact.“, explains An Lambrechts, head of the seabed at Greenpeace.

We were able to find images of a first robot tested in 2017 to excavate the seabed at a depth of 4,500 meters. He was then looking for polymetallic nodules. It is a kind of concretion, of agglomeration, rich in valuable metals: copper, nickel or even cobalt.

The deep sea is home to an enormous biodiversity, still poorly understood today

Their extraction disrupts ecosystems according to environmentalists. “Deep seabed mining poses a serious risk to the health of our oceans. Because the deep sea is home to an enormous biodiversity, which is still poorly understood today. It also plays a key role in carbon storage, and therefore in the fight against the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity. We must protect the oceans instead of destroying them“, says An Lambrechts.

The company defends itself

Contacted, the Antwerp company wants to be reassuring. His 25-ton robot is in the process of being recovered. “Before this incident, the robot had successfully demonstrated its ability to maneuver (…) Independent monitoring of the scientific test by 29 European institutes was also carried out“, reacts in writing the communication manager of GSR Deme, Kris Van Nijnen.

A metal mine that attracts greed

The operating area covers 9 million square kilometers, between Polynesia and Mexico. It shelters reserves equivalent to the totality of the terrestrial deposits. Something to whet appetites.

An electric car, for example, contains pounds of different metals. In other words, the exploitation of metal nodules is also a strategic issue.

Does Belgium still want to be a sponsoring state for a company which is going to move on to the operating phase?

This is what now needs to be discussed. Does Belgium still want to be a sponsoring state for a company which is going to move on to the operating phase? Or will she at some point listen to the scientists, and say ‘Listen, the risks are too great and we think that Belgium should not play in this game’“, reacts Séverine De Laveleye, federal deputy Ecolo, author of a resolution on the exploitation of the seabed.

The current government coalition remains divided over the impact of seabed mining. An ecological and economic battle on a global scale …

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