Ecological impacts of large-scale disposal of mining waste in the deep sea

David Hughes, Tracy Shimmield, Kenny Black, John Howe

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32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Deep-Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) from terrestrial mines is one of several large-scale industrial activities now taking place in the deep sea. The scale and persistence of its impacts on seabed biota are unknown. We sampled around the Lihir and Misima island mines in Papua New Guinea to measure the impacts of ongoing DSTP and assess the state of benthic infaunal communities after its conclusion. At Lihir, where DSTP has operated continuously since 1996, abundance of sediment infauna was substantially reduced across the sampled depth range (800–2020 m), accompanied by changes in higher-taxon community structure, in comparison with unimpacted reference stations. At Misima, where DSTP took place for 15 years, ending in 2004, effects on community composition persisted 3.5 years after its conclusion. Active tailings deposition has severe impacts on deep-sea infaunal communities and these impacts are detectable at a coarse level of taxonomic resolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9985
JournalScientific Reports
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2015

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