July 21, 2014 | Richard Johnston

Metallic products are all around us.

As a materials scientist and engineer I use metals to help people fly in planes and to power our homes. The world needs metals, and the UN has just issued licences for vast exploratory mining work.

Sounds great, but is it? These aren't traditional mines - this is deep-sea mining on a huge scale. An area five times the size of the UK will now be open for mining exploration. I'm worried this could potentially devastate unique deep-sea hydrothermal ecosystems that support hundreds of species - environments yet to be fully studied by scientists.

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Hydrothermal vent

Hydrothermal vents are a rich source of copper, iron and zinc.

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Image: Flickr/neptunecanada

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