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The National Oceanography Centre

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is engaged in research into the potential risks and benefits of exploiting deep-sea mineral resources, some of which are essential for low-carbon technology, as well as using ocean robots to estimate the environmental impact of these potential deep-sea mining activities. The NOC has led an expedition on the RRS James Cook that found enough of the scarce element Tellurium present in the crust of a submerged volcano that, if it were all to be used in the production of solar PV panels, could provide 2/3rds of the UK’s annual electricity supply. In addition, the NOC also led an international study demonstrating deep-sea nodule mining will cause long-lasting damage to deep-sea life, lasting at least for decades. These nodules are potato-sized rocks containing high levels of metals, including copper, manganese and nickel. They grow very slowly on the sea-bed, over millions of years. Although no commercial operations exist to extract these resources, many are planned. Professor Edward Hill, Executive Director at the NOC commented, “By 2050 there will be nine billion people on earth and attention is increasingly turning to the ocean, particularly the deep ocean, for food, clean supplies of energy and strategic minerals. The NOC is undertaking research related to many aspects and perspectives involved in exploiting ocean resources. This research is aimed at informing with sound scientific evidence the decisions that will need to be taken in the future, as people increasingly turn to the oceans to address some of society’s greatest challenges.”

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