Bill bans deep-sea mining in California waters

By Shannon Kelleher

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill this week that will prevent deep sea mining in the waters off the state coastline, a move that joins California with other western states in a bid to protect more than 2,500 square miles of Pacific Ocean seafloor.

Deep sea mining involves the retrieval of minerals and deposits from the ocean floor found at depths of 200 meters or greater. Critics say the practice can damage ocean ecosystems and pollute the sea floor with destructive plumes of sediment, but advocates say the practice is critical to meeting demand for minerals used in making an array of products, including components for batteries used in electric cars.

“We know incredibly little about what’s in our ocean,” said Matthew Montgomery, a spokesman for state lawmaker Luz Rivas, who authored the bill. “But while we don’t necessarily know what’s on our ocean floors, we know how destructive this practice (of deep sea mining) can be.”

The California Seabed Mining Prevention Act aims both to protect ocean ecosystems and California’s economy. Valued at $45 billion and employing over half a million people, California’s ocean-based economy is the largest in the United States.

“I think it’s a precedent-setter,” said Arlo Hemphill, a Greenpeace USA expert on deep sea mining. “There are whispers that Hawaii might do something similar. If enough states do this, it sends a message to Washington that we need something like this at the federal level.”