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, and increasing the recycling of minerals. We feel that adopting the precautionary principle here is the right approach, given the potential sizeable and still unknown risks associated with deep-sea mining.
To remain within 1.5⁰C of warming,
The aggregate contribution of all countries’ activities which release greenhouse gases (GHGs) and strengthen the global greenhouse effect.
, and semiconductor and microchip manufacturers to retool systems, balance energy grids, and ensure power gets from the point of production to the point of demand.
The policy and regulatory environment reflects the urgent need to transition. The EU’s
Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA)
EU regulation, announced in 2023, which seeks to improve domestic capacity and supply chain security around the extraction, processing, recycling, and import of critical raw materials such as nickel and lithium by 2030.
Refers to an Act in the United States, published in 2022 which sets in motion a suite of policies directing spending towards clean energy infrastructure, lower healthcare costs, and improved taxpayer compliance through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
, and the 14th Five-Year Plan (FVP) in China all place pressure on the need to ramp up decarbonisation and secure supply chains to deliver sustainable infrastructure growth. It also underscores the need to scale mining capacity. It is clear we need more metals and minerals to support the low carbon transition.
The proposal to increase the extraction of metals from the deep ocean is a response to this urgent demand. Deep-sea mining involves mining hydrothermal vents and seamounts or raking potato-sized nodules from the seabed up to 5,500m below the surface on the Abyssal Planes of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ). 17 of the 31 existing deep-sea mining contracts are to explore polymetallic nodule collection in the CCZ, each contract covering an area roughly the size of Scotland.
Researchers at the Natural History Museum estimate that over 90% of CCZ species are unknown to science. Experiments into the long-term effects of nodule collection show that the activity causes irreversible loss of ecosystem function and low recovery of fauna after 26 years. Mining reverses the
The process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
potential of the seabed by dragging carbon-rich sediment back into the water column, discharged kilometres above mining sites. Full remediation of the seabed following mining is currently impossible. It is no surprise, therefore, that the G7 leadership has called for deeper regulation and more safeguards and knowledge.
As investors supporting the drive to a low carbon economy, what are the solutions to raw material bottlenecks if not through deep-sea mining? We believe the answer lies within innovation and circularity.
Currently, battery technology is one of the most crucial enabling technologies for the low-carbon transition and one of the most mineral hungry. Batteries require lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel. However, constraints often lead to innovations. For example, Samsung, Panasonic, and Tesla embrace cobalt-free batteries as part of their operations. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), material substitution and scaling game-changing technologies can reduce mineral demand by 30%. Therefore, innovations in battery technology provide unique and exciting opportunities for investors.
Reducing the demand for virgin metal production can be partially achieved by championing two processes – ‘
Cradle to cradle design
Refers to the process through which everything is designed to be disassembled and safely returned to the soil as biological nutrients or re-utilised as high-quality materials for new products as technical nutrients without contamination.
’ (the process through which everything can be designed to be disassembled and safely returned to the soil as biological nutrients or re-utilised as high-quality materials for new products as technical nutrients without contamination) and
The process of reclaiming raw materials from waste products sent to landfill. This includes extracting rare metals from discarded waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
. An estimated $320 billion in gold and silver is used yearly to create electronics. Designing products so the materials can be recovered at the end of the product’s life could create anthropogenic ‘deposits’ 40-50 times richer than ores currently mined. This eases the cost of replacement and repair, and extends the product’s lifespan. As an investor, this advanced type of
A concept that relates to the use of regenerative materials in product development, and a shift in consumer behaviour that encourages those products to be kept in use for as long as possible.
also offers investors opportunities. 53.6 million tonnes of WEEE were generated in 2019, and this volume is expected to reach 74 million tonnes by 2030. Recovery of critical metals within this waste may have the twofold benefit of increasing recycled metal availability while removing existing pollution caused by landfilled WEEE.
The environmental concerns associated with deep-sea mining are well documented. Opportunities are available to businesses and investors (as outlined above) to reduce the critical mineral and metal gaps that have not yet been fully investigated or facilitated. With that in mind, and the significant risk of harm to the world’s seabed, a moratorium on deep-sea mining is a logical step that we support.
In line with our recommendations for investing in the Blue Economy, we do not currently view deep-sea mining as an integrated investment strategy that supports our outlined principles.
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The value of any investments and the income from them can go up or down so you may get back less than your initial investment.