Archive | Deep Sea Mining

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 →

Deep sea robots reveal mineral riches in the abyss – by Matthew Stock (Reuters U.K. – September 20, 2018)

https://uk.reuters.com/

BERGEN, Norway (Reuters) – From the safety of their research vessel, scientists are exploring one of Earth’s last frontiers – the sea floor – to discover more about valuable minerals vital in the manufacture of smartphones.

The scientists, from the University of Bergen in Norway, are sending robots 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) down into the waters between Norway and Greenland, to try to understand the environments potentially rich with rare earth minerals.

“The ocean sea floor on Earth is, for the most part, unknown,” scientist Thibaut Barreyre told Reuters. Continue Reading →

The Race Is On to Mine the Deep Sea—But Scientists Are Wary – by Jon Letman (National Geographic – August 29, 2018)

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/

Some of the biggest deposits of iron, copper, and rare-earth elements are in the middle of the Pacific. They come at a cost.

Closer than the moon, yet less well-mapped than Mars, the Earth’s seafloor is home to otherworldly creatures befitting a science fiction movie. Their remote habitat has caught the attention of humans, who are lining up to begin mining the bottom of the deep blue sea.

As technology and infrastructure drive the demand for minerals, and terrestrial resources grow harder to mine, the materials in the deep ocean are starting to look increasingly attractive to countries and companies.

“Deep-sea mining could end up having the largest footprint of any single human activity on the planet in terms of area of impact,” says University of Hawaii oceanographer Craig Smith. Continue Reading →

Murky waters: Deep-sea miners say they offer a clean, ethical way to harvest precious metals for a low-carbon future. Environmentalists aren’t convinced. – by Janet Davison (CBC News – August 5, 2018)

https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/

They don’t look like much at first, the black, potato-shaped blobs that lie scattered on the seabed, deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But as is so often the case, looks can be deceiving.

These nodules, and the metals that lie within them, are at the heart of a new and potentially lucrative mining frontier.

Metals like cobalt, copper, nickel and manganese have been mined on land for years, but going deep into the ocean to find them is becoming an increasingly tantalizing prospect. Companies like DeepGreen Metals and Nautilus Minerals — both with Canadian ties — have invested millions in preparation to raise the minerals from the seabed.

The metals in question are found in three sources: those potato-sized nodules; seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits around hydrothermal vents; and cobalt-rich crusts near underwater mountains. Continue Reading →

Nautilus Minerals tanks on shipbuilding contract cancellation – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – July 4, 2018)

http://www.mining.com/

Shares in Canada’s Nautilus Minerals (TSX:NUS), one of the world’s first seafloor miners, were hit hard on Wednesday after the owner of the shipyard where the company’s support vessel is being made said it had cancelled the contract with the supplier chosen by Nautilus to build its ships.

The Toronto-based company, which is in the last stages of developing its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver project, off the coast of Papua Guinea, said Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding’s decision was in response to shipbuilder MAC Goliath Pte’s failure to pay the third instalment of the contract price — $18 million before interest.

The company’s stock fell almost 19% in Toronto on the news, hitting 15 Canadian cents at 12:21 PM local time, but between the average range it’s traded so far this year. In the last seven years, however, Nautilus’ shares have sunk around 90% and is now valued at just over Cdn $111 million. Continue Reading →

THE RACE TO SEND ROBOTS TO MINE THE OCEAN FLOOR – by Eric Niiler (Wired Magazine – June 4, 2018)

https://www.wired.com/

WHEN THE 300-FOOT Maersk Launcher docked in San Diego early Monday morning, it unloaded a cargo of hardened black blobs scooped from the bottom of the sea. The blobs are not rocks, but naturally-occurring metallic nodules that could one day yield metal deposits of cobalt, manganese, and nickel—not to mention scarce rare earth minerals.

As worldwide demand rises for electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, along with next generation technologies and weapon systems, demand for these metals has taken off. And the seabed is a prime target for those mining operations. Of course, it’s no small feat to bring these potato-sized nodules from the bottom of the remote Pacific Ocean, and then sail them to a processing plant where the metals can be extracted.

But leaders of Canada-based mining company DeepGreen Metals and its subsidiary NORI (Nauru Ocean Resources Inc.) think they have figured out how to harvest the nodules without wrecking the deep ocean habitat—and make a profit at the same time. Continue Reading →

As China leads the hunt for deep-sea minerals, environmental and financial concerns come to the surface – by David Dodwell (South China Morning Post – May 4, 2018)

http://www.scmp.com/

Nasa may be scouring deep space for signs of life. Elon Musk might be looking to Mars. China’s scientists have had an eye cast skyward too – but, at the same time, the country seems keenly focused on challenges much closer to home – mineral riches in our oceans.

For decades, the quest for riches scoured from our oceans has been the stuff of fiction. Back in 1974, the CIA hoaxed the world by saying they were launching Project Azorian, a Pacific Ocean search for mineral-rich manganese nodules 4,900m deep. In fact, they were secretly looking for – and indeed found – the sunken Soviet submarine K-129.

In reality, the cost and uncertainty of deep-sea exploration has frustrated all attempts to begin plundering the assets in the oceans. Until now. Continue Reading →

Deep-sea mining possibly as damaging as land mining, lawyers say – by Ben Doherty (The Guardian – April 18, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

The “new global gold rush” over deep-sea mining holds the same potential pitfalls as previous resource scrambles, with environmental and social impacts ignored and the rights of Indigenous people marginalised, a paper in the Harvard Law Review has warned.

A framework for deep-sea mining – where polymetallic nodules or hydrothermal vents are mined by machine – was first articulated in the 1960s, on an idea that the seabed floor beyond national jurisdiction was a “common heritage of mankind”.

But exploration has gathered momentum in the past three years, with licences granted off Papua New Guinea’s coastlines, and successful mining off Japan late last year. The International Seabed Authority, which is drawing up a draft mining code, has issued 29 exploration contracts for undersea mining in international waters beyond any national jurisdiction. Continue Reading →

[Deep Sea Mining: Papua New Guinea] The secret on the ocean floor: (BBC News – February 19, 2018)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/

A wave of pioneers is poised to scoop up treasure from the deep sea. But was this ocean mining boom sparked by a 1970s CIA plot?

In the summer of 1974, a large and highly unusual ship set sail from Long Beach in California. It was heading for the middle of the Pacific where its owners boasted it would herald a revolutionary new industry beneath the waves.

Equipped with a towering rig and the latest in drilling gear, the vessel was designed to reach down through the deep, dark waters to a source of incredible wealth lying on the ocean floor.

It was billed as the boldest step so far in a long-held dream of opening a new frontier in mining, one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed. Continue Reading →

Deep sea mining: Charting the risks of a new frontier – by Lars Bevanger(Deutsche Welle – Janaury 24, 2018)

http://www.dw.com/en/

Our growing demand for resources has prompted companies to turn to mining in the depths of the oceans. With help from robots, a team of German scientists is racing to map the potential environmental damage.

The Earth’s oceans hide vast amounts of valuable minerals and metals, and as some onshore deposits run low, mining companies are looking for ways to make deep sea mining both technologically possible and profitable.

This is partly driven by the need for so-called rare earth metals to produce the magnets, batteries and microchips driving our gadgets, electric cars and wind turbines. Continue Reading →

World-first mining case launched in PNG – by Tom Lodewyke (Lawyers Weekly – December 14, 2017)

https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/

Citizens of Papua New Guinea have launched landmark legal proceedings against the country’s government over a deep seabed mining project.

Coastal communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) recently commenced proceedings against the PNG government over the Solwara 1 project, the world’s first deep seabed mine.

The Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) in Port Moresby is representing four community plaintiffs. They are seeking information on the legality of the mine’s approval, as well as the likely environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts. Continue Reading →

The best diamonds in the world are buried at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – by Aislinn Laing (Quartz.com – October 29, 2017)

https://qz.com/

The best diamonds in the world come from the sea. Swept up from riverbeds by the mighty Orange River in southern Africa back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, their bumpy journey to the Atlantic polished them and broke up any stones with flaws, ensuring only the strongest and best survived.

Those diamonds landed off the coast of what is now Namibia, creating the world’s richest marine-diamond deposit. The country’s territorial waters are now estimated to hold 80 million carats, and the world’s biggest diamond miner, De Beers, has quietly built up an armada off the coast to vacuum up those precious gems.

Diamonds on land are running out; no economically viable new source has been found in 20 years. Continue Reading →