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Don’t gamble with our future, don’t gamble with our environment

Earlier this week former Premier Dr David Saul claimed that establishing a large marine reserve around Bermuda would be ‘economic suicide' because of the untapped potential for ocean-bed mining.

But why would we gamble on a slim possibility of mining in the future and put at risk our greatest assets?

There is nowhere in the world that deep ocean mining is currently economically viable, and the locations people are prospecting today are near active faults or volcanoes — something we haven't had here for 30 million years.

Dr Saul also pointed out that much of the ocean around Bermuda is 12,000 feet deep “as deep as the wreck of the ‘Titanic'”; this makes any prospect of large-scale ocean-bed mining in the foreseeable future technologically and economically impossible.

There may or may not be potentially valuable minerals on the seabed surrounding Bermuda.

Frankly no one knows for certain, but even if there were, would it be a good idea to dig them up?

What we do know is that we in Bermuda are blessed with wonderful beaches and rich fishing.

If seabed mining were to take place, the removal of the minerals and the raising of them to the surface would inevitably churn up a large amount of the dirt in which the minerals are sitting.

That's how you mine; you dig it all up. Where would this go?

If this plume of mud drifted towards the island, as it likely would at least sometimes, this would pose a serious risk to the health, even survival of our coral reefs, which are notoriously fragile and require clean and pure water to flourish.

Damage to our reefs would in turn damage both our commercial and sport fisheries, because fish rely on the coral to feed and thrive.

The coral growing around Bermuda also forms a natural and renewable defence against wave damage and its loss would increase the risk of our coast being battered even more severely during hurricanes and other storms.

And there are our famous pink beaches, which are the product of our clean water and our corals.

As sediment chokes the corals, the renewal of our sand will be reduced.

Put simply we risk our sandy beaches turning brown, muddy or disappearing, putting our tourism industry at risk.

This doesn't even take into account the very real risk of industrial accidents occurring in our waters, as the requirement for heavy equipment and experimental tools used for a practice that is as yet untried anywhere in the world, also means untried safety practices.

Again our beaches would be at risk, from oil spills (which we have seen before, and whose consequences have been disastrous) and pollution, which are the by-products of all mining practices anywhere, be it land or sea.

Finally, for those seabed mining optimists: even the most expansive proposal for the ‘Blue Halo' marine reserve still allows prospecting and economic exploitation of any minerals out to 85nm from our shores, a very large area already and the area most easily accessible for mining.

But, if minerals are found, we do not have the expertise or infrastructure on the island to extract them, and therefore foreign companies will have to come here to exploit our assets.

This means that the majority of profits from any seabed mining (unlikely as they look today) would go offshore.

Mining poses a serious threat to the well-being of nearly every Bermudian through the risks it brings to our coral reefs, our pink beaches, our fishing, our tourist industry, our coastal defences, and ultimately to our economy.

That's a big risk for Bermuda for probably very little gain.

Let's prioritise protecting our pure clear water and all that goes with it, including our current economic health, and recognise that these are immeasurably more valuable to Bermuda in the short and long-term than seabed mining is ever likely to be and that taking risks with them is simply a very bad idea.

Dr Landsberg is the President of Greenrock.

(Photo by Mark Tatem) Don't gamble with our future: Dr Judith Lansberg of Greenrock

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Published October 05, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 04, 2013 at 5:28 pm)

Don’t gamble with our future, don’t gamble with our environment

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