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71 percent of the Earth's surface is actually underwater, and the seafloor (or seabed) is rich in rare-earth elements and other sought-after minerals -- especially in deep international waters. The ISA manages the mineral rights of more than 50 percent of the world's deep ocean floor, and its 168 member states have the right to vie for access to the resources there. Nonetheless, both commercial organizations and ocean scientists think new technologies will make deep-ocean mining all but inevitable within the next decade.Digital-age technologies and the global clean-energy transition are driving a sharp increase in demand for materials that are abundant in the deep ocean.The United States, by contrast, must import many high-tech minerals. Accordingly, the U.S. government recently deemed 35 minerals critical to the country's economic and national security, and announced a new strategy calling for increased domestic mining, among other measures.All mining -- including the noxious process of extracting minerals from rocks -- is destructive, and it is too soon to tell if deep-ocean mining is more or less destructive than mining on land.In the digital age, the world must be much more environmentally aware when tapping the deep-ocean mineral riches.
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