There's gold in them there oceans!

By Tim Thwaites ROBERT GOODDEN has waited 30 years for this moment. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is a little apprehensive. “Seldom have I been in a place where the consequences of a ‘yes’ are so significant, and of a ‘no’ so dreary,” he says. “The whole world will be watching.” This month, Seacore, the company Goodden heads, will send its drilling ship to the waters around Papua New Guinea and the North Island of New Zealand. There it will drill as deep as 2000 metres beneath the surface to test the thickness of volcanic ore deposits. If they are 15 metres thick or more, mining these deposits for gold, zinc, copper, silver and lead could well be commercially viable, and a new industry will be born, one that is touted by some as less intrusive and less environmentally destructive than mining on land. The mineral wealth of more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface is potentially up for grabs, and the mining companies of the world are well aware of it. Environmentalists are also watching closely. Ocean mining, they say, will add a burden of pollution, noise and dust that could devastate fragile ecosystems about which we know precious little. Whichever way you look at it, there is a lot riding on those 15 metres. This isn’t the first time that ocean mining has caused a stir. The first serious attempts to harvest the mineral wealth of the oceans began in the 1960s, when a sharp increase in demand for copper,
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