Archive | Deep Sea Mining

Experts call for plan to protect deep-sea life from mining – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – June 24, 2020)

https://www.mining.com/

Mining the seafloor opens a vast source of key metals needed for clean energy, but should not start until a full evaluation of likely environmental impacts can be made, a report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) shows.

The group of academics and environmentalists believe a precautionary approach to deep-sea mining is needed. Otherwise, they warn of likely irreversible damage to global aquatic ecosystems.

In their study, published on Wednesday, the experts note that copper, rare earths and iron ore were the resources that piqued miners’ original interest in exploring the seafloor. Continue Reading →

Underwater drones join hunt for trillions in mineral riches trapped on ocean’s floor – by Justin Higginbottom (CNBC.com – June 6, 2020)

https://www.cnbc.com/

Across the otherworldly plains of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, some 15,000 ft below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, are clustered manganese nodules the size of potatoes. The rare earth metal deposits have grown undisturbed at a rate of about a third of an inch every several million years. Now they are targets for the nascent seabed mining industry.

But plucking them off this dark desert is no easy task. First they need to be found. That’s where underwater drones come in. Hovering just feet above the seafloor, the machines can record unprecedented details of a surface less mapped than Mars.

“If you want high-resolution information, you have to put the sensor close to what you’re looking at. An AUV [automated underwater vehicle] is the best and most accurate way to do that,” said Richard Mills, vice president of marine robotics sales at Kongsberg Maritime. His company’s creations can relay images with a resolution of 2x2cm, much better than what’s possible with a surface-level ship’s sonar. Continue Reading →

Fresh study calls for moratorium on deep-sea mining – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – May 20, 2020)

https://www.mining.com/

A coalition of non-profit organizations is pushing for an international moratorium on deep-sea mining following a fresh report that warns of potential irreversible damage to Pacific island states including Kiribati, the Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

“Accumulated scientific evidence indicates that the impacts of nodule mining in the Pacific Ocean would be extensive, severe and last for generations, causing essentially irreversible damage,” the report, commissioned by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and MiningWatch Canada, found.

Polymetallic nodules — potato-sized metals-rich rocks that lie in a shallow layer of mud on the seafloor — are believed to be rich in cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and rare earth metals. Continue Reading →

Extracting battery metals from seafloor may beat traditional mining — study – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – April 22, 2020)

https://www.mining.com/

Mining battery metals from the ocean floor could potentially eliminate or dramatically reduce most of the environmental and social impacts associated with the extraction of riches from the Earth’s surface, a new study claims.

According to a research published this week and funded by Canada’s DeepGreen Metals, a start-up planning to extract cobalt and other battery metals from the seabed, undersea mining generates up to 70% less direct CO2 emissions, 94% less stored carbon risk, as well as 90% less sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions — air pollution from maritime transportation.

Mining the ocean floor would also eliminate the issue of solid waste, while using 94% less land and 92% less forest, the report reads. Continue Reading →

DeepGreen to make run for battery metals from seafloor – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – April 7, 2020)

https://www.mining.com/

DeepGreen Metals, a Canadian start-up planning to extract cobalt and other battery metals from the seafloor, has added a new area to its seabed portfolio, which it believes could potentially help it solve the bottleneck supply of critical battery metals needed for the world’s green energy transition.

The strategic acquisition of Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML), announced Tuesday, gives the Vancouver-based company exploration rights to a third area inside the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean.

The 4,000-kilometre swath of ocean, stretching from Hawaii to Mexico, is known for containing enough nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese to build over 250 million electric vehicle batteries. Continue Reading →

Unstable Mineral Supply Threatens Electric Car, Green Projects, Justifies Undersea, Space Mining; Report – by Neil Winton (Forbes Magazine – January 3, 2019)

https://www.forbes.com/

The advent of the electric car is threatened by a few known knowns like range anxiety, high prices, and a thin recharging network, but now, according to a report from the University of Sussex, lurking in the background are possible shortages of the raw materials at the heart of this low-carbon revolution, which threaten to derail the whole project.

Making sure of adequate supplies is so important, mining under the sea, or even on other planets, would be justified, according to the report.

The automotive industry in Europe has been spending massively to embrace the electric car. On Thursday, Europe’s number one auto maker, Volkswagen, raised the stakes of its electric plans by bringing forward its target of producing one million electric cars a year by two years, to the end of 2023. By 2025 this will reach 1.5 million a year. Continue Reading →

History’s Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin – by Wil S. Hylton (The Atlantic – January/February 2020)

https://www.theatlantic.com/

It’s underwater—and the consequences are unimaginable.

Unless you are given to chronic anxiety or suffer from nihilistic despair, you probably haven’t spent much time contemplating the bottom of the ocean. Many people imagine the seabed to be a vast expanse of sand, but it’s a jagged and dynamic landscape with as much variation as any place onshore. Mountains surge from underwater plains, canyons slice miles deep, hot springs billow through fissures in rock, and streams of heavy brine ooze down hillsides, pooling into undersea lakes.

These peaks and valleys are laced with most of the same minerals found on land. Scientists have documented their deposits since at least 1868, when a dredging ship pulled a chunk of iron ore from the seabed north of Russia. Five years later, another ship found similar nuggets at the bottom of the Atlantic, and two years after that, it discovered a field of the same objects in the Pacific.

For more than a century, oceanographers continued to identify new minerals on the seafloor—copper, nickel, silver, platinum, gold, and even gemstones—while mining companies searched for a practical way to dig them up. Continue Reading →

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 →