A Canadian mining company that is scheduled to begin mining the seabed off the coast of Papua New Guinea next year is being accused of producing a deeply flawed assessment of the impact of its operation.
The Papua New Guinea government awarded Nautilus Minerals the world's first deep-sea mining lease in January to develop its copper-gold project by searching for mineral deposits in the Bismarck Sea.
One of the authors of a new report about the project, Out of Our Depth, says not enough is known about how mining will affect either the marine environment or the communities who rely on it.
Dr Helen Rosenbaum says little is known about the hydrothermal vents to be mined.
"They've been called in the past black smokers because they look like industrial chimneys fuming out these clouds of black smoke and those clouds are infact this very rich sulphidic ash and that ash just forms these mounds over thousands and thousands of years. Some scientists believe that these hydrothermal vents are where life first started on earth."
Dr Helen Rosenbaum says the ecosystems that surround the vents are unique.