Seafloor Massive Sulfides: Their Role in Biodiversity of the Abyssal Ocean and the Threat of Deep-Sea Mining
Seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) at hydrothermal vents present huge opportunity for deep-sea mining (DSM) due to their abundance and high mineral grade. Little is known about the deep-sea; however, hydrothermal vents are some of the most biologically active deep-sea ecosystems, providing significant biodiversity and other ecosystem services that maintain the entire planet. The mining of SMS, which may commence within the decade (2020s), poses serious risk to hydrothermal vents as mining methods will likely require the destruction of active and/or non-active vents, which will in turn affect these ecosystems and their services. The environmental impacts of mining SMS deposits must be carefully considered alongside the benefits from moving away from terrestrial mining before DSM is allowed to commence on the large scale.