An underwater cave with a sea floor and a tree branch

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Thanks to some quirks of geology, there are large nodules of metallic minerals under the sea floor in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Deep-sea mining operations are planning to target these nodules in order to seek out potential sources of copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, and perhaps other metals.

However, because such operations can have significant ecological impact, these areas have to be studied before those operations can begin.

One of the first investigations undertaken was in the eastern region of this zone, an area leased to UK Seabed Resources Ltd. (UK-1) for possible exploitation. A team of scientists led by Diva Amon, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, found a huge abundance of life on the bottom of the ocean here, in areas where no light ever reaches.

This region, known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), contains a multitude of diverse life forms, which will no doubt be negatively impacted by deep-sea mining. Not only will mining operations disrupt these life forms, but there are more of them near the nodules, and many seem to need those nodules in order to survive. Mining those nodules, then, could have a potentially catastrophic impact on these creatures.

Ocean diversity is important to the global ecosystem, and we have no idea how destroying this particular ecosystem might impact the world at large.

Although plans to move forward with the deep-sea mining operations are in the works, there is still more research to be done.

Researchers plan to publish many more papers about the biology of this region of the ocean floor. Hopefully, scientific discovery will come fast enough to prevent any significant damage from being done.