Action: Cease or prohibit mining waste (tailings) disposal at sea
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects of ceasing or prohibiting mining waste (tailings) disposal at sea on subtidal benthic invertebrate populations.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this intervention during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore, we have no evidence to indicate whether or not the intervention has any desirable or harmful effects.
Mine tailings (the ore waste of mines typically in the form of a mud-like material) originate from both coastal and land-based mining activities and can be disposed of in the marine environment. These mine tailings disposals are known as “submarine tailing disposal” in shallow waters, and “deep sea tailings disposal” in deeper waters (Vare et al. 2018). Mine tailings can have negative impacts on subtidal benthic invertebrates through physical disturbances, smothering, chemical contamination (Marinho et al. 2017), and changes in sediment characteristics (Kathman et al. 1983) and submarine tailing disposal has been prohibited in parts of the world (Kline & Stekoll 2001). Ceasing or prohibiting submarine mine tailings disposal in an area can remove the source of harm and potentially allow natural recovery of the seabed and its invertebrate community. Evidence for interventions related to marine mining are summarised under “Threat: Energy production and mining – Cease or prohibit marine mining” and “Leave mine tailings in place following cessation of activities”.
Kathman R.D., Brinkhurst R.O., Woods R.E. & Jeffries D.C. (1983) Benthic studies in Alice Arm and Hastings Arm, BC in relation to mine tailings dispersal. Institute of Ocean Sciences, Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Kline E.R. & Stekoll M.S. (2001) Colonization of mine tailings by marine invertebrates. Marine Environmental Research, 51, 301–325.
Marinho C.H., Giarratano E., Esteves J.L., Narvarte M.A. & Gil M.N. (2017) Hazardous metal pollution in a protected coastal area from Northern Patagonia (Argentina). Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 24, 6724–6735.
Vare L.L., Baker M.C., Howe J.A., Levin L.A., Neira C., Ramirez-Llodra E.Z., Reichelt-Brushett A., Rowden A.A., Shimmield T.M., Simpson S.L. & Soto E.H. (2018). Scientific considerations for the assessment and management of mine tailings disposal in the deep sea. Frontiers in Marine Science, 5, 17.