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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Impacts from sediment deposition created by deep-sea mining on seafloor ecosystems and their spatial/temporal extent remain largely unknown.
Graphic: Giun Yee Soong

Washburn TW, Iguchi A, Yamaoka K, Nagao M, Onishi Y, Fukuhara T, Yamamoto Y, Suzuki A

Impacts of the first deep-sea seafloor massive sulfide mining excavation tests on benthic communities

Ever-increasing global demand for metals has caused great interest in the exploitation of mineral resources in the deep sea, which contains vast quantities of these metals. The request in 2021 for the International Seabed Authority to finalize deep-sea mining regulations for exploitation has only increased the urgency in understanding environmental impacts of mining deep-sea resources. Japan undertook first ever excavation tests of one such resource, deep-sea seafloor massive sulfides, in 2017 in the Okinawa Trough. Washburn and colleagues observed significant impacts on benthic communities with several metals, taxa, and multivariate measures identified as possible indicators of mining disturbance. These results are an important step in ensuring we understand mining impacts to prevent irreparable harm to the world’s largest habitat.


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