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EVs Need Precious Metals-Cobalt from the Congo or from the CCZ, Or Use Alternatives?

Time September 13/September 20, 2021 pp60-69 |Environment|”Deep Questions” “At the bottom of the Pacific Ocean lies a solution to the imminent battery shortage...At a great potential cost to biodiversity and life on earth” By Aryn Baker

Image from USGS.GOV

Read the Time article for all the details, photographs and a chart

Summary offered by 2244

3,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean lies a 1.7 million square mile “swath of international ocean between Hawaii and Mexico knowns as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ).” On the ocean bed lies nuggets claimed by some to contain “enough cobalt and nickel” to “power 4.8 billion electric vehicles.”

Proponents dub the area a vast desert while opponents call for extensive research to ensure no significant unintended consequences could happen with wide-scale mining.

Proponents say the mining process is like plucking up the briquette-sized-nuggets while researchers say nearly 10 feet of ocean floor will be dug up in the process.

Some argue that there’s plenty of cobalt needed for highly efficient batteries on land.

Others note that there exist more accessible mineral alternatives than cobalt. Admittedly, the alternatives aren’t as efficient using current technologies but experts believe they are discovering ways to engineer around that limitation.

There too is a sense that ocean mining for these cobalt in this way will not be cost effective.

While exploratory contracts are underway “commercial mining is not yet permitted in international waters. “The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the U.N. body tasked with managing seafloor resources, is still deliberating how, and under what conditions, mining should be allowed to proceed.”

With the exploratory contracts has come an army of researchers likely to make the CCZ one of the most understood ocean-floor.

Wanting to avoid being embattled by the controversy one researcher, Andrew Sweetman (Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University), summed up his point-of-view as follows. “I’m not for mining, and I’m not against it. We all have to look in the mirror and realize that in order to get electric cars or a new cell phone or a new computer, tons and tons of rock will have to be extracted from either the ocean or the land. All I’m trying to do is get the best environmental data so that if mining does go ahead, we know with a good level of confidence what’s potentially going to be damaged, and what the effects are going to be. And then it’s up to society to make the decision to go ahead.”


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