Sunday, 10 February 2013

Seabed mining off the North Cornish coast, why not a trial

I've read with interest plans revealed that the sea bad off Cornwall could be mined for minerals. On the one hand it promises jobs, investement and crucially Cornwall exporting and bringing money in. On the other there are widespread concerns that dredging style activity could have an adverse effect on wildlife, the fishing industry and beachgoers.

This is a great dilemma Cornwall shouldn't spurn economic development and a possibly emerging industry but neither should it sacrifice the environment to do so. Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Surfers Against Sewage are right to be cautious, sediment from centuries of mining churned up uncontrollably could have a long detrimental effect. To be fair the company behind the plan Marine Minerals ltd claim that their methods don't risk churning up the seabed and wouldn't pose the risks feared. (see this This is Cornwall article for example). This is claim and counter claim and its hard to know personally who is nearer to the mark. So why can't we have a limited trial, closely monitored in conjunction with concerned groups. Then if environmental concerns are well founded we can stop it and conversely if tin can be profitably extracted cleanly and efficently it can carry on.

There's a wider point here, that's weighing up environmental concerns against economic ones. We've seen this in Falmouth over the harbour issue and potential dredging there. Who knows perhaps more dredging elsewhere to clear waterways or mine minerals will come up in the future. It concerns me that there's a lot at stake either way but yet there doesn't seem to be a policy from Cornwall Council or central government. To my mind its the job of policy making bodies to set regulations and to weigh up competeing concerns and to ensure safeguards for our environment. It's a debate people in Cornwall are having the Cornish media has been very good at provoking this debate and giving concerned parties and companies a chance to give their side of the story. It's time this debate was had by those who can set the rules and can monitor and regulate activites and I sincerely hope they put the people of Cornwall and what we want at the forefront of this process.