Oct 26 • 48M

What to think about deep-sea mining for clean-energy minerals

A conversation with journalist Daniel Ackerman.

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As Volts subscribers are aware, the transition to clean energy is going have the effect of radically raising demand for a key set of minerals used to make batteries, solar panels, and electric vehicles. Currently, those minerals are mined in often environmentally and socially destructive ways, using exploited or even child labor.

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In recent years, more attention has turned to an alternative place to find those minerals: the ocean floor. It turns out that huge caches of these minerals are simply lying on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean, waiting to be plucked up and processed.

Of course, the idea of mining the seafloor raises all kinds of sensitive questions about feasibility, sustainability, and affordability.

Daniel Ackerman
Daniel Ackerman

Recently, journalist Daniel Ackerman dug into all those questions for a story on the podcast How to Save a Planet. Shortly after it aired, he found out that Spotify was shutting the podcast down and laying off its staff.

That’s a bummer — it was a great podcast and Spotify's decision has left several talented journalists, including Ackerman, jobless.

So I thought, in the name of highlighting both this subject and Ackerman's work, I would get in touch with him to talk it through. We discuss how deep-sea mining works, the size of the resource available, the environmental concerns it has raised, and cutting-edge technologies that promise to reduce its impact.