Archive | Deep Sea Mining

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 →

Deep sea mining – by Elaine Maslin (Offshore Engineer – October 1, 2017)

http://www.oedigital.com/

Many are looking to a new resource, deep sea minerals, thanks to growth in demand from emerging economies and the development of new technologies that require increased supply of metals such as copper.

While interest in mining metals from the deeps has been ongoing since the 1960s, activity has remained low, due to low metal prices and the challenges of operating in deep sea environments. This activity is also the focus of strong local and environmental opposition.

Slowly, however, the pieces have been falling into place to permit this activity. In 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) established the International Seabed Authority (ISA), based in Jamaica, to organize and regulate mineral-related activities in seabed areas beyond the limits of national jurisdictions. Continue Reading →

Treasures beneath the sea – by Chu Daye (Global Times – September 26, 2017)

http://www.globaltimes.cn/

China set to make breakthrough in deep-ocean mining of rare, hotly-demanded metals

Before mankind’s first commercial deep-sea mining endeavor begins in 2019, China’s Xiang Yang Hong 06 survey vessel is currently examining the seabed of the East Pacific for precious metals in a three-month-long voyage.

A leading expert in China’s seabed mining quest says of the voyage that the country is sailing toward a program that will see the extraction of 30 tons of minerals per hour from 1,700 meters beneath the sea by 2020, minerals that are much-needed in the country.

In August, the Xiang Yang Hong 06 vessel left Qingdao in East China’s Shandong Province for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the East Pacific, south of the Hawaiian Islands, to search for polymetallic nodules. Aboard the survey vessel are experts from China Minmetals Corp (CMC), in the company’s first voyage to search for mining opportunities for deep-sea rare metals. Continue Reading →

Advancing technology signals imminent opening of undersea mineral treasure chest – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – August 29, 2017)

http://www.miningweekly.com/

VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – In a new era of ever-advancing technology and increased legal certainty, ocean floor mining is set to take off in the next decade as several juniors jostle to be first to exploit the wealth hidden on the deep ocean floor.

DeepGreen Resources chief development officer Anthony O’Sullivan believes it is in the running to reach the ocean depths, with access to a prime base metals tenure in a prospective region of the Pacific ocean floor.

The company’s flagship Nori project is part of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Central Pacific, which was first discovered in 1873 – an area believed to hold an abundance of the polymetallic nodules, with metal concentrations occurring on the vast abyssal plains at a depth of about 4 000 m to 6 000 m in international waters, O’Sullivan told an audience attending the fifty-sixth Annual Conference of Metallurgists, in Vancouver. Continue Reading →