Book chapter

The deep Pacific: Island governance and seabed mineral development

While relatively little is known about the deep sea compared to land, data are being collected that fundamentally change how ocean spaces are thought about and engaged with. Beneath the surface of our planet’s expansive oceans lies the prospect of a new gold rush (after Shukman, 2013), one in which, in pursuit of sunken geologic treasures, companies scour the seabed for minerals and rare metals. The desire to locate such deposits is spurring a surge in attempts to map sections of seabed in high resolution, and to probe the ocean floor to determine the extent and composition of its raw materials. These technical assessments are steps in a process to assert national marine territorial boundaries, key to transforming the seabed into a space for industrial scale resource extraction. Before mining has even begun, one effect of proposed projects to mine the seabed is the constitution of this vast and historically invisible resource space as a location of desire, hope, friction, and anxiety—with important implications for evolving state practices of resource governance. A sense of urgency then characterizes attempts to exploit this seafloor wealth, and it is evident in discourses of resource scarcity and narratives about inevitability of development in the deep. In response, Pacific peoples, for example, are grappling with how to determine new legislation, environmental management regimes, and economic benefits associated with such a space.

Stratford, E. (2017). Island geographies: Essays and conversations (Routledge studies in human geography). (Chapter 2)