Three times I’ve traveled across the codfish gray seas of Georges Banks, about 150 miles southeast of Nantucket, out onto the Mediterranean blue of Oceanographer’s Canyon. Every time we saw sperm whales surface, blow a spout that arched diagonally to the whale’s left, and dive. One time we found a dead whale floating on the water likely killed by a ship strike. . .For more fathom Rob’s Clam Chowdah blog.
This wondrous ocean realm of deep canyons and towering seamounts is today the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The trouble is the current president has requested reports be made on the “lost opportunity costs” of having a national park area instead of letting industry cash-in on more lucrative enterprises such as oil and gas drilling. Most precious of all is a high-tech metal found in rare earth minerals, tellurium. Due partly to its high atomic number, this element is rarer than gold or platinum, and it’s in more demand.
Tellurium when combined with bismuth becomes an alloy that is used by Intel for the fastest phase change memory chips. When tellurium is combined with cadmium the result is the alloy with the greatest efficiencies for solar cell electric power generation.
Cadmium telluride-based solar cells absorb around 90% of the light that hits it. This remarkable property is far better than silicon and results in very “thin-film” solar cell technologies. Less materials are used, production is quicker, and it is cheaper to manufacture than using silicon. 1
In April 2017, Scientists struck something more valuable than gold, tellurium on a seamount in the Atlantic Ocean. Well, actually it was a short quest going to great depths. On the first seamount they sampled was found accumulated over the life of the Atlantic on top of porous volcanic basalt, “astonishingly rich” rock.2
From the seamount’s plateau top, robotic submarines lifted up through black waters more than 3,000 feet to the sea surface, dark fine grained bits of ferromanganese crust. The Atlantic seamount rocks held tellurium in dazzling abundance, concentrations 50,000 times higher than deposits on land. Tellurium from this one seamount, they estimated, could meet 60% of the UK’s electricity demand. (No need to employ thousands to extract from discarded solar cells and computer boards when there are seamounts to break apart with the twiddle of a joy stick.)
Unfortunately for the health of oceans much sea life is intertwined with the myriad of marine organisms that are attached to the floor of seamounts. Each seamount has unique assemblages of animals dwelling there. The majority have not yet been identified. Animals found in disparate parts of the Atlantic and adjoining seas have been observed cohabiting seamounts.
Fortunately, just as President Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyons National Monument, we have today the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument protecting the four seamounts from mineral mining.
Unfortunately, the president wishes to recover any “lost opportunities” to make money from national monuments. The president is under great pressure to cave to the solar cell industries demands and bow to unquenchable appetites for more cheap energy.
This national park area of cold water corals, sperm whale canyons, and magnificent seamounts is in great danger of being closed and condemned to strip-mining and mountain top removal.
The Ocean River Institute is the only organization calling attention to the intentions to mine and harm ocean flora, fauna and fisheries. Which side are you on? Sperm whale canyons and cold water coral seamounts national park area or a stove seamount with surface strip-mining?
Deep sea mining could help develop mass solar energy – is it worth the risk? April 24, 2017. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/deep-sea-mining-could-help-develop-mass-solar-energy-is-it-worth-the-risk-76500
Renewables’ deep-sea mining conundrum, David Shukman, April 11, 2017. BBC News Science & Environment http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39347620