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Manganese nodule. via Wikipedia

World - To Fight Climate Change, Should We Mine the Deep Sea? USF Wants to Find Out.

The local ocean sciences school is now home to the International Marine Minerals Society, staking a flag into what it calls a “green conundrum.”

Ancient rocks lie across vast fields miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

Far from people, but not entirely out of reach, they contain metals such as cobalt, used in batteries for technology like electric cars. They are numerous, about the size of meatballs or potatoes, and formed over millions of years.

These stones may hold a key to fighting climate change, according to a contingent of entrepreneurs who want to mine them. To wean the world off fossil fuels that worsen global warming, scientists say, will require a lot of batteries. That’s where the rocks could help.

But nothing is so simple in the abyss.

Opponents argue that rushing into deep-sea mining risks destroying a pristine wilderness, killing species that have lived free of human intrusion for millennia. They say miners would disrupt a habitat that might hold other value for society, potentially home to microbes that fight diseases and untouched sediments that have trapped carbon pollution.

The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science is now jumping into this murky debate. The St. Petersburg-based school announced last month that it is the new home of the International Marine Minerals Society, providing staff support and a fixed address, and helping organize an annual research conference. The Society’s goals are to improve understanding of the field and “to encourage the prudent development of marine mineral resources.”

Professors hope to draw funding for research and expand course offerings about marine minerals. The Society is supposed to fund a future graduate fellowship for an international student at USF.

The university calls the debate a “green conundrum,” with people on both sides touting a commitment to nature.

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