Archive | Deep Sea Mining

United States sitting out race to mine ocean floor for metals essential to electronics (CBS News – November 13, 2019)

https://www.cbsnews.com/

One of the most high-stakes races in history is underway, with colossal riches waiting for the winners. It’s a race to a little known frontier: the bottom of the sea. Around the world, thousands of engineers and scientists are in fierce competition to build the first undersea robot that can mine the ocean floor.

The explosion of interest in deep sea mining is driven by the demands of our high-tech economy. The deep ocean is the El Dorado that contains metals like nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements, essential for use in cell phones, supercomputers and electric cars. They’re also critical for a green future of solar and wind power.

Dozens of nations, including Russia and China, are racing to get there first. But not the United States. As Bill Whitaker reports, America must sit on the sidelines of this great treasure hunt. Whitaker’s report will be broadcast on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS. Continue Reading →

China leads the race to exploit deep sea minerals: U.N. body (Reuters U.S. – October 23, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

OSLO (Reuters) – China is likely to become the first country in the world to start mining seabed minerals if the international rules for exploitation are approved next year, the head of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) said.

The quest for exploiting seabed minerals, such as polymetallic nodules containing nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese is driven by demand for smart phones and electric car batteries, and the need to diversify supply.

The ISA has already signed 30 contracts with governments, research institutions and commercial entities for exploration phase, with China holding the most, five contracts. Continue Reading →

EXPLAINER-How do miners dispose of their waste in the sea? – by Melainie Burton (Reuters U.S. – October 11, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

MELBOURNE, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Sea disposal of mining waste could spread as Indonesia weighs adopting the technique for new nickel projects, as Papua New Guinea is doing for a gold mine proposed by Australia’s Newcrest Mining.

The management of mining waste has drawn attention since two dam disasters in Brazil, and after red mud spilled into Papua New Guinea’s Basamuk Bay from Ramu Nickel’s operations in August.

An expert in chemical contamination has called test results from the Ramu Nickel spill “alarming,” media said this week. That spill resulted from an operational failure, however, rather than an issue with tailings management. Continue Reading →

Collapse of PNG deep-sea mining venture sparks calls for moratorium – by Ben Doherty (The Guardian – September 15, 2019)

https://www.theguardian.com/

The “total failure” of PNG’s controversial deep sea mining project Solwara 1 has spurred calls for a Pacific-wide moratorium on seabed mining for a decade.

The company behind Solwara 1, Nautilus, has gone into administration, with major creditors seeking a restructure to recoup hundreds of millions sunk into the controversial project.

The Solwara 1 project (Solwara is pidgin for ‘salt water’) planned to mine mineral-rich hydrothermal vents, formed by plumes of hot, acidic, mineral-rich water on the floor of the Bismarck Sea. But the project has met with fierce community resistance, legal challenges, and continued funding difficulties. Continue Reading →

Getting to the bottom of things: Can mining the deep sea be sustainable? – by Anna Metaxas and Verena Tunnicliffe (The Conversation – September 8, 2019)

https://theconversation.com/

It is completely dark, just above freezing cold and the pressure is crushing: this is the deep-sea floor. Food is very scarce in this huge region, yet a great diversity of animals have adapted to exploit and recycle resources and thrive within it.

As technology enabled us to penetrate deeper into the ocean in the past 50 years, we discovered extraordinary ecosystems: hydrothermal vents support lush communities of unique animals, seamounts foster coral and sponge forests and abyssal plains continue to yield biodiversity novelties.

Metal-rich ores were also discovered in these same environments — and in quantities that sparked commercial interest. These deposits are now the targets for exploitation by mining companies both within and beyond national waters. Continue Reading →

[Seabed Mining] Progress at snail’s pace – by Donal Hickey (Irish Examiner – August 25, 2019)

https://www.irishexaminer.com/

Over the years, we’ve had controversies about the need to save rare snails which had got in the way of roadworks in places such as Ballyvourney, Co Cork, and the Pollardstown Fen nature reserve in Co Kildare. Some politicians tried to trivialise the issue and mock campaigners, but they missed the point.

The real story was that the presence of these snails was a sign of a valuable environment which was worth protecting. Now, the focus is taking a completely different turn, and another obscure snail comes into the picture.

Ironically, this ocean resident may be a victim of the drive to manufacture electric cars which are supposed to protect the environment. The seabed may well have to be mined to obtain some essential materials for electric car batteries, with negative effects on marine life. The seabed, more than half the world’s surface, contains more nickel, cobalt, and rare earth metals than all land reserves combined. Continue Reading →

U.N. deep sea mining body rejects Greenpeace criticism – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – July 5, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has rejected criticism from Greenpeace over its handling of ocean mining, fuelling a spat that threatens to overshadow talks this month by the U.N. body toward rules for deep sea mining.

Mining international waters is in the spotlight as companies and countries are looking at minerals concentrated on the ocean floor that can be used in batteries for smart phones and electric vehicles.

Greenpeace, which wants a moratorium at least until the ocean depths are better understood, issued a report this week warning seabed mining risks doing irreversible harm and said the 168-member ISA should not set the rules. Continue Reading →

Greenpeace ship sets sail to highlight risk of mining below the waves – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters U.S. – July 2, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – A Greenpeace ship sets sail on Thursday to study an ecosystem beneath the Atlantic Ocean thought to hold clues to the origins of life to press its case for a ban on deep sea mining, as talks in Jamaica seek to agree rules on deep sea mineral exploitation.

Throughout July, work is under way at the U.N.’s International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Kingston to establish regulation on mining the oceans. So far, regulations have only allowed exploration.

Greenpeace is among the campaigners urging a moratorium at least until the ocean depths are understood. The group also says the ISA is not the right authority to make the decision. It wants what it calls a global ocean treaty with a holistic view of all the challenges, including fishing and oil drilling, as well as seabed mining. Continue Reading →

Deep-sea mining could provide access to a wealth of valuable minerals – by Barclay Ballard (The New Economy – May 13, 2019)

https://www.theneweconomy.com/

Deep-sea mining could help meet mankind’s insatiable thirst for essential minerals and power the green economy of the future. It could also cause irreversible damage to a part of the planet that we know very little about

According to NASA and other industry experts, we know more about the Moon than the darkest recesses here on Earth. While 12 individuals have set foot on the lunar surface, only three have visited the deepest part of the ocean.
Satellites have mapped the Moon with a pixel scale of around 100m, but the seabed has only been catalogued to a far grainier resolution of 5km.

To take nothing away from man’s astronomical achievements, reaching the bottom of the sea still represents a significant technical challenge. Even if the deepest parts are avoided – including the Mariana Trench and its record depth of 10,994m – travelling to the seabed often means a shadowy descent lasting more than an hour and enduring pressure thousands of times stronger than that found at the Earth’s surface. Continue Reading →

Belgian fast-moving ‘caterpillar’ in deep sea copper, cobalt race – by Barbara Lewis (Reuters Canada – February 27, 2019)

https://ca.reuters.com/

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Belgian group DEME and Canada’s DeepGreen are carrying out tests and research to collect nodules containing copper, cobalt and other minerals from the ocean floor, as a race to mine the depths gathers pace.

Deep sea mining is often dismissed as unaffordable and environmentally hazardous because of the potential risk to species science has barely begun to understand.

But U.N. talks in Jamaica, which began on Monday, are working out regulations on mining in international waters, which may appeal to companies struggling to find new reserves on land and to deal with governments and communities. Continue Reading →

Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea – by John Childs (The Conservation.com – February 19, 2019)

https://theconversation.com/

When they start mining the seabed, they’ll start mining part of me.

These are the words of a clan chief of the Duke of York Islands – a small archipelago in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea which lies 30km from the world’s first commercial deep sea mine site, known as “Solwara 1”. The project, which has been delayed due to funding difficulties, is operated by Canadian company Nautilus Minerals and is poised to extract copper from the seabed, 1600m below the surface.

Valuable minerals are created as rapidly cooling gases emerge from volcanic vents on the seafloor. Mining the seabed for these minerals could supply the metals and rare earth elements essential to building electric vehicles, solar panels and other green energy infrastructure. But deep sea mining could also damage and contaminate these unique environments, where researchers have only begun to explore.

The industry’s environmental impact isn’t the only concern. It’s been assumed by the corporate sector that there is limited human impact from mining in the deep sea. It is a notion that is persuasive especially when compared with the socio-ecological impacts of land-based mining. Continue Reading →

Race to the bottom? India plans deep dive for seabed minerals – by Annie Banerji (Thomson Reuters Foundation – December 5, 2018)

http://news.trust.org/

As expanding technology and infrastructure fuel global demand for resources, manufacturing powerhouses India and China, are eyeing the ocean

CHENNAI, Dec 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In the 1870 Jules Verne classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, underwater explorer Captain Nemo predicted the mining of the ocean floor’s mineral bounty – zinc, iron, silver and gold.

India is catching up with that only now, as it prepares to unearth treasures down below, aiming to boost its economy. The floor of the world’s seas is scattered with vast beds of black potato-shaped polymetallic nodules comprising copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron and rare earth elements.

These natural goodies are key to making modern gadgets, from smartphones and laptops to pacemakers, hybrid cars and solar panels. As expanding technology and infrastructure fuel global demand for these resources – whose supply is dwindling fast onshore – more and more countries, including manufacturing powerhouses India and China, are eyeing the ocean. Continue Reading →

Electric vehicles spur race to mine deep sea riches – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – November 13, 2018)

https://www.ft.com/

Miners want to tap subsea deposits of cobalt and other rare metals for green technologies, but environmental campaigners are worried

Gerard Barron brandishes a small black rock — the size of the palm of his hand — and heralds it as the future: “It’s all right here, all the metals we need.”

The Australian entrepreneur believes these rocks, formed over millions of years at the bottom of the ocean, can help satisfy the growing demand for the metals used in batteries and clean energy technologies, and are therefore critical to the transition away from fossil fuels. Less than 20cm wide, the so-called nodules can contain nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt— all set to see a surge in demand over the next decade.

Mr Barron’s start-up, DeepGreen, which is backed by shipping group Maersk and Switzerland-based miner Glencore, plans to suck up thousands of tonnes of the nodules from the sea floor using harvesting vehicles, and send them up a pipe to a ship to be sorted. Mining in the deep sea (defined as below 200m) can avoid the problems of land mining, he says, such as deforestation, pollution and child labour, although critics say it produces a whole new raft of problems. Continue Reading →

Chinese vessel collects cobalt samples in the Pacific: Xinhua (Reuters U.S. – November 11, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese deep-sea exploration vessel has returned to port in Guangdong after collecting samples of so-called cobalt-bearing crusts during a 138-day survey in the west Pacific, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

Cobalt is used in batteries for electric vehicles, an important industry for China, the world’s largest auto market. Chinese companies are some of the biggest investors in cobalt mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s biggest producer.

The Ocean No. 6 vessel, designed in China, conducted a survey of cobalt-bearing crusts, found on the surface of underwater mountains, in more than 30 areas, Xinhua cited Yang Shengxiong, chief engineer at the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey, as saying. Continue Reading →

Deep-Sea Mining for Rare-Earth Metals Looms, as Do Environmental Questions – by Adam Allington and Stephen Lee (Bloomberg News – September 28, 2018)

https://www.bna.com/

Once thought too expensive and too difficult, commercial scale mining of the deep sea is poised to become a reality as early as 2019. But scientists warn reaching rare minerals on and under the sea floor could cause irreversible damage to an environment that is still poorly understood.

As new technologies come online, mining companies are probing depths from 5,000 to 16,000 feet to expose new deposits of manganese, copper, cobalt, and other rare-earth minerals necessary to build everything from smartphones to solar panels to electric cars.

“People are making new discoveries almost every week; we’re nowhere near plateauing in our understanding of these deep-sea ecosystems,” said Lisa Levin, a biological oceanographer at the University of California-San Diego. Continue Reading →