Could your future mining job be out at sea?

A ship, symbolising jobs in deep sea mining for rare earth minerals.

As mining companies look offshore to mine rare earth minerals, could your future mining job be far out to sea?

We’re all used to the idea that working in mining often means spending a lot of time in really remote places, but we generally expect that remoteness will be on dry land.


Could that be all about to change? Could your future mining job be far, far out to sea?


It’s a very real prospect, as entrepreneurial mining companies exploring for rare earths (elements like lithium and cobalt) seek to capitalise on vast and valuable deposits resting on the ocean floor.

Why are companies considering mining the ocean?

Rare earth minerals are becoming increasing important for the future of humanity. They’re essential ingredients in the batteries that are going to allow us to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels, like oil, gas and coal.


But extracting these minerals on land is costly compared to mining it from the sea floor — where small rocks rich in cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and rare earths lie in vast amounts in a shallow layer of mud. These rocks can be sucked from the seabed and pump them up to a ship on the surface.



READ MORE: What kinds of jobs will there be in deep sea mining?


Is this actually likely?

The idea might sound like something out of science-fiction but not only is the prospect of this kind of mining very real, but it’s also likely to start very soon — as countries around the world engage in a race to secure supplies of rare earth elements.


Europe, Britain, China, Australia and many other countries are already either investigating or actively experimenting with the technologies that will make this kind of mining possible. The United Nations has issued exploration licences to 21 companies and is preparing to publish rules for extraction. Norway plans to start mining as soon as 2026.


So, yes, it is highly likely at least some Australian mining jobs will be far out to sea in the next five to 10 years. Beyond that, it’s very likely these kinds of jobs will be commonplace.


Depending what stage of your career you’re at, it’s entirely possible you’ll have an offshore mining job before you retire!


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Dan Hatch
Mining People International