Threat of deep sea mining in Portuguese waters now “much closer than we thought”

Just as Euro MP Catherine Bearder hinted when she visited Portugal last year, the battles environmentalists are waging against oil and gas exploration off Portugal’s coastline could “simply be a blind for something far more sinister: deep sea mining”.

Bearder gave her warning at a public meeting in Portimão last May, and on Friday in Lisbon anti-oil campaigners attending the presentation of Portugal’s initiative to extend its continental platform by a whopping 3.9 million square kilometres realised just how valid it was.

“The threat is far more advanced than we had feared”, Laurinda Seabra of ASMAA (Algarve Surf and Maritime Activities Association) told us. “It is much much worse than even I expected”.

Canadian company Nautilus – pushing for the rights to mine offshore in the Azores – is finally moving ahead with its first project planned in Papua New Guinea (despite stiff environmental protests) and this suggests ‘step 2’ in the Azores could be sanctioned “in the very near future” (click here).

As Seabra explained: “It is our opinion that the Portuguese Government has a vision to transform Portugal into an ocean state by promoting the ocean economy as one of its main pillars of development.

“This strategy is being driven by various Portuguese lobbying organisations, such as the Gulbenkian Foundation (Oceans Initiative), the Fundação Oceano Azul (Blue Ocean Foundation), Forum Oceano XXI, various universities, and many other bodies – not to mention private interests as well”.

“We can expect major campaigns “selling/ brainwashing” the population with a wide range of ‘fictitious benefits’ for the country and for the Portuguese people.

ASMAA warns that “it is important” for people to understand the implications of deep-sea mining – which marine biologists have long been warning could be the “undoing of us all”.

Seabra concludes in ASMAA’s latest news on its website: “We are looking at risks that will put in question the survival of mankind”.

This was the gist of the warning given almost a year ago in Portimão by British Euro MP Bearder who told an audience then focused on stopping oil and gas exploration that “we have to watch (the powers that be) very carefully”.

The ‘background’ to deep sea mining is simple. It centres on huge amounts of cobalt, nickel, gold, diamonds and other minerals that are known to exist on the seabed.

Writing in National Geographic last year – and stressing the need to protect the world’s oceans from what he dubbed a “new gold rush” – journalist Brian Clark explained that “there is enough gold on the seafloor to give every person alive nine pounds, scientists estimate. That would be worth about $150 trillion, or $21,000 a person”.

And that’s just the gold. Nickel, for example, will be another major prize as it is massively in demand for the manufacture of mobile phones.

“We have a whole new fight on our hands”, concedes Seabra – and it will be uphill all the way.

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PHOTO: from
In National Geographic (July 21, 2016) marine biologist Sylvia Earle described machines used in deep sea mining as “the size of small buildings, poised to begin a campaign of wholesale destruction”.