Rich in Rare Metals, Your Next Phone Lithium Cell May Come from Deep Sea

The deep sea is rich in cobalt, rare earth and other rare metals, your next lithium cell phone battery may come from the depths of the sea. 19th-century French science fiction writer Jules Verne described a fragment in his famous work "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea": "These mineral deposits are located under the sea, just like Newcastle's coal pits. Putting on a wet suit, holding a hoe and a shovel, my crew is responsible for coal mining, so I don't need to ask for coal on the ground."

"Deep-sea mining" is not a fantasy plot of Verne. As early as the 16th century, the British had successfully mined coal mines in the North Sea and Northern Ireland at a depth of 100 meters, and Japan's earliest seabed mining operation can be traced back to 1880.

deep-sea exploration for rare minerals image

It also started from coal mines. Human beings gradually realized that the sea is like an endless treasure trove. The deeper you dive the more discoveries will continue to refresh our cognition.

However, compared to new species that have not been recorded, miners, large companies and even governments are more interested in minerals buried under the sea, where there is a large amount of nickel, cobalt, manganese, and rare metals, all of which are the key raw materials of lithium cell for smartphones and electric vehicles.

In the past, commercial deep-sea mining operations were limited to the territorial seas of various countries and did not extend to the vast international high seas, but nowadays, as land and coastal mineral deposits have been almost developed, various consumer electronics, electric vehicles are in the increasing demand for batteries, deep sea has become the next goal of humankind.

To solve the problems caused by mining in the high seas, the UN's International Seabed Authority (ISA) agency is currently drafting a Code of Conduct for Mining. The 168 member states of the Law Convention have reached consensus to allow miners to carry out commercial mining in several designated international seas.

On the other hand, many scientists and environmental protection groups are concerned about the upcoming actions of the miners. They issued a warning to the ISA, pointing out that before human beings knew enough about the deep-sea environment, and even before many new species were discovered, rash mining would only cause irreversible damage to the deep-sea environment and repeat the mistakes in land mining.

environmental protection groups are against deep-sea mining image

The rare metals in deep sea for manufacturing lithium cell and other products are charming. While who could decide the future of the sea? As of today, the controversy over deep-sea mining is continuing, but both the supportive miners and the ISA, the environmental protection organizations and some scientists of the opposing side, both sides will come up with opinions in their favor.