Session 6: Extracting non-renewable resources from the oceans: the challenges and opportunities from the perspective of societal acceptance

Host: Roald Leeuwerik

Industrial and technological developments have greatly increased the demand for different resources, such as metals, oil and gas. During many decades, this demand could be satisfied by terrestrial reserves. However, reserves are now getting depleted and are often plagued by local (violent) conflicts, endangering the supply. These developments have reinvigorated interest in offshore reserves, which were previously deemed too costly and technologically challenging to exploit.

Currently, industries are in different stages of development. Whereas deep-sea mining is still being planned but not taking place at commercial scale, shallower waters are already being exploited (e.g. marine diamond mining in Namibia). As for oil and gas, operations are taking place in different parts of the world, such as in the North Sea and are likely to expand. In general, offshore reserves are estimated to be very promising and worth the considerable investments in terms of technology and manpower.

Looking at these developments from a societal perspective results in a plethora of interesting questions. For instance, how should we regulate the High Seas and ensure the sustainable development of extractive industries in this area? How will we protect other economic uses of our oceans, such as fisheries, when mining seems to inevitably lead to adverse environmental impacts? What environmental and ecological knowledge do we (still) need before we begin exploiting the deep-sea? How should we engage with stakeholders and is it possible to make them benefit from resource exploitation?