Could the world’s hunger for metals and minerals, and state strategies for securing access to them, propel the development of deep sea mining?
Identifying the drivers of a Pacific deep sea minerals industry requires a global perspective on metals demand, an understanding of the forces influencing the mining and minerals industry, and a regional perspective on need and opportunity in the Pacific. The combined picture is complex, with high levels of uncertainty, due to the dynamic and often interrelated nature of the drivers.
Long-term decreasing metal industry productivity, falling ore grades, and increased costs, combined with increased environmental, social, and cultural expectations for sustainability, create an opportunity for deep sea minerals as an alternate source of metal supply (along with reuse and recycling).
Across the Pacific Islands region, there is widespread and recognized need for alternative economic development to overcome poverty and meet the rising aspirations of Pacific islanders. Running counter to this is an increasingly vocal concern about impacts and a lack of communal benefit from development projects.
The focus of this chapter is the primary drivers of deep sea mining in the Pacific, with a shorter discussion on secondary drivers and the restrictive forces operating in the region. Investigating these drivers provides an objective framework for improved understanding of the forces behind the industry, leading to better decision making. This investigation, like the industry, is in its infancy. Further work is required to better inform Pacific Island states of the factors influencing the future of the industry.