Many Leagues Under the Sea: Proponents see glistening future in seabed mining, but environmentalists fret – by Megan Van Wyngaardt ( – March 24, 2017)

With the current known mineral deposits on land increasingly being depleted globally, necessitating greater exploration, interest in deep-sea minerals is growing as mining companies look for future sources to exploit.

“The ocean is where future resources exist,” India Council of Scientific and Industrial Research National Institute of Oceanography chief scientist Dr Rahul Sharma said at South Africa’s Council for Geoscience Annual Conference 2017, earlier this month.

Sharma highlighted that minerals from the deep seafloor, such as polymetallic nodules, ferromanganese crusts and hydrothermal sulphides, are potential sources of millions of tonnes of metals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and iron.

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Should we mine the deep ocean? – by Kendra Pierre-Louis (Popular Science – February 21, 2017)

Behind the deep sea “gold rush” for increasingly rare minerals

You’ve probably heard of peak oil—the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and begins to decline—but what about peak copper? Copper helps send the electrical signals that make modern electronics like cellphones and tablets work. But there’s growing concern that the prevalence of key minerals like copper is on the decline.

In 2016 the Chilean Copper Commission (Cochilisco) released a report that looked at 15 years of copper exploration data. They found that most new copper deposits had been found before 2010. The world hasn’t stopped looking for copper, but we’ve stopped finding it.

And copper isn’t even the mineral that makes companies most nervous—it’s still pretty abundant. Minerals like tantalum, tungsten, and molybdenum are another matter entirely. They’re vital to manufacturing high-tech devices and don’t have ready substitutes. These minerals are often not mined directly but are byproducts of other types of mining.

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China’s deep-sea crewed submersible heads for Indian Ocean mining mission (GB Times – February 7, 2017)

China’s deep-sea manned Jiaolong submersible has embarked on a journey to conduct the country’s 38th oceanic scientific mission in preparation for potential mining of the sea bed.

Carried by the advanced expedition ship Xiangyanghong 09, the craft departed from the port city of Qingdao in east Shandong Province on Monday morning.

Jiaolong will be used to explore the polymetallic sulphides in a deep-sea rift in northwest Indian Ocean, with the mission anticipated to pave the way for China’s upcoming application to the International Seabed Authority for mining rights in that area of the seabed.

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Southern Africa: Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights On Southern Africa’s Sea Floor – by Mark Olalde ( – Novmeber 18, 2016)

Johannesburg — A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world.

Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations. South Africa specifically is one of the first countries on the continent to begin legislating its marine economy to promote sustainable development, and questions surround mining’s place in this new economy.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear.

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China’s deep-sea mission to mine the wealth beneath the ocean floor (South China Morning Post – October 6, 2016)

Resource-hungry China is stepping up activity in one of the final frontiers of mineral wealth – the remote seabeds lying kilometres beneath the Indian and Pacific oceans.

The world’s largest consumer and importer of minerals and metals is now studying the core technologies of seabed mining in the Indian Ocean, according to Tao Chunhui, one of the country’s leading oceanographers and a researcher at the State Oceanic Administration.

Vast sulphide deposits on the 3,000 metre deep seabed might contribute to China’s metal supplies in the long term as it tried to narrow the technological gap with other maritime powers, said Tao, who was chief scientist of a number of China’s Indian Ocean expeditions. The volcanically formed hydrothermal sulphides on the seabed contain copper, zinc and precious metals including gold and silver. They are formed in hot underground springs seeping through cracks in the seabed.

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Seafloor Miners Poised to Cut into an Invisible Frontier – by Julian Smith (Scientific American – August 11, 2016)

The ocean floor teems with mineral treasures, but extracting them could jeopardize an unexplored alien world

People have been clawing valuable minerals like iron and gold out of the ground for millennia. And for much of the stuff that touches our lives today — from the europium, terbium and yttrium that help illuminate the screen you are reading to the copper in the wires that power it— we increasingly depend on elements from the depths of the Earth. But finding new deposits gets harder every year and mines are steadily growing larger, more expensive and more environmentally destructive.

On land, that is. By some estimates the ocean floor has the planet’s largest resources of minerals such as copper, nickel and cobalt. The deep sea also holds gold, silver, platinum and the rare earth elements used in high-tech devices and renewable-energy technology including iPhone displays, solar panels and magnets used in hybrid cars.

Underwater deposits often have much higher grades of ore than those on land, meaning they contain a higher percentage of the desired minerals—in some cases by an order of magnitude or more. The trick is getting the stuff to the surface in a cost-effective way.

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Searching Sea for Metal Is Japan’s Answer to Land That Has None – by Masumi Suga and Ichiro Suzuki (Bloomberg News – August 8, 2016)

As deep as 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) under water and 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from Tokyo, work has begun on the new hunting ground for metals in Japan, a country so devoid of natural resources that most of what it needs has to be imported.

As the island nation depleted most of its land-based minerals in the economic boom that followed World War II, scientists have identified swathes of the sea floor littered with nuggets containing everything from copper to gold left over from the volcanic activity that created the archipelago millions of years ago. The trick is extracting them at a profit, something a government consortium will start testing next year.

Ocean mining isn’t new — Japan began exploring in the 1970s. But new technologies make it easier for companies like Canada’s Nautilus Minerals Inc. to collect mineral-rich rock from the sea. With more than 50 million metric tons of ore estimated in Japanese waters, the government wants to revive home-grown supply and ease dependence on imports. When Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games, bullion for gold medals may come from the deep ocean.

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Only India, South Korea have active technology for deep sea mining (The Hans – July 19, 2016)

New Delhi:The ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on the South China Sea dispute in favour of the Philippines may have come as a setback for China but it will not stop Beijing from continuing with its quest for maritime hegemony in the region.

“The reaction of China on the court’s ruling was on expected lines,” Prashant Kumar Singh, Associate Fellow in the East Asia Centre of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), told IANS.

“In the immediate term, it might adopt aggressive posturing and show a defiant face to other claimants to the dispute and also to the US which is a security provider for many of the claimants, including the Philippines,” he said.

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The Ocean Could Be the New Gold Rush – by Brian Clark Howard (National Geographic – July 13, 2016)

As the future of seafloor mining is debated this week, here are five things you need to know about the risks and rewards of extracting precious metals and minerals from the ocean.

The bottom of the world’s ocean contains vast supplies of precious metals and other resources, including gold, diamonds, and cobalt. Now, as the first deep-sea mining project ramps up, nations are trying to hammer out guidelines to ensure this new “gold rush” doesn’t wreck the oceans.

People have dreamed of harvesting riches from the seafloor for decades. A project off Papua New Guinea could begin as early as 2018, serving as a test case for an industry that could be highly lucrative. If it proves successful, it could kick off a boom of deep-sea mining around the world.

In response, representatives of many nations, the mining industry, and environmental groups are meeting this week in Kingston, Jamaica, at an annual session of the International Seabed Authority.

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[India mining] ‘Ready for next great game: Mining minerals from seas’ (Times of India – January 13, 2016)

Maor nations are looking to the oceans for mineral and fuel reserves as reserves on land deplete fast. The recent discovery by ONGC of a large reserve of gas hydrates -a potential gamechanger in fossil fuels -off Andhra Pradesh has shown that the Indian exclusive economic zone may well be able to secure the nation’s energy and other needs, but the technology for commercially exploiting these reserves is still several nautical miles away.

In a chat with Meera Vankipuram, Satheesh C Shenoi, director of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, and also director (additional charge), National Institute of Ocean Technolog y (NIOT), Chennai, explains that the process of analysing data on mineral deposits in the Indian ocean has begun.

Does India have the technology and industrial base to extract and use reserves like the gas hydrates?

Right now, we don’t have the technology to produce gas from hydrates.

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Govt set to mine mineral resources off Okinawa (Japan News – June 28, 2015)

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Natural Resources and Energy Agency intends to conduct deep-sea test mining of minerals found on the seabed off Okinawa Island, in fiscal 2017.

The government aims to mine as much as 1,000 tons of zinc, silver and other mineral resources at a depth of about 1,600 meters in the sea off the island.

It is a world first to conduct such large-scale mining of minerals that lie under the seabed, according to the agency. A large number of mineral deposits have lately been found one after another in waters near Japan.

Currently, the Hishikari gold mine in Kagoshima Prefecture is the only domestic commercial mine in the country, the agency said.

Japan is 100 percent dependent on imports for minerals such as iron, copper and zinc, which are indispensable for the production of cars and home electrical appliances.

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Strip-mining the Ocean Floor: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – by Miyoko Sakashita (Huffington Post – May 14, 2015)

Miyoko Sakashita is the Oceans Director, Center for Biological Diversity.

Have you heard about the disastrous gold rush brewing in our oceans? Not content with getting minerals from dry land, companies are now aiming to strip mine our ocean floors in search of nickel, copper, cobalt, gold and other valuable metals and minerals. Many of them would end up in our electronics.

But there’s a heavy price to be paid: Like mountain-top removal mining, deep-sea mining involves massive cutting machines that will leave behind barren, underwater landscapes — some of the richest and most pristine ecosystems left on the planet.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity (where I work) took the first steps in slowing down this deep sea gold rush by filing a lawsuit challenging the permits that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued to a Lockheed Martin subsidiary to mine the mineral-rich Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Mexico.

While there’s much that we still don’t understand about life on the deep sea floor, we do know that the Clarion-Clipperton Zone is teeming with wildlife, including sperm whales, spinner dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, great hammerhead sharks and a vast array of fish, corals, snails and sponges.

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Commentary: Seabed Mining: Long on Promises, Short on Delivery – by Stuart Burns (Metal Miner – February 26, 2015)

If you think miners or developers on land struggle with environmental legislators, spare a thought for those looking to develop resources under the ocean via seabed mining.

The International Seabed Authority, a UN agency, has so far issued 26 exploration licenses to governments and companies enabling them to operate in international waters but none of them have reached commercial realization. Even in national waters governments are coming down on the side of the environmental lobby when new applications are being put forward.

After leading the way in supporting early proposals, the New Zealand environmental regulators have recently turned down an application from an ocean mining firm Chatham Rock to develop a site off the coast, some 450 kilometers southeast of Wellington, the FT reports.

The site in question is said to be rich in phosphate, used in fertilizer manufacturing, and said to hold enough to meet 25 years of New Zealand’s current consumption. Chatham Rock have invested $33 million over seven years researching the environmental impact and developing the extraction processes.

It is not hyperbole to say the ocean floor is the last great mineral reserve on the planet.

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[Japan] Govt aims to commercialize seafloor mining in 2020s (The Japan News – February 22, 2015)

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government is aiming to commercialize the mining of rich seafloor deposits around Japan of such mineral resources as copper in the 2020s, according to officials.

The nation has relied on imports to meet demand for mineral resources like copper, lead, gold and silver since many domestic mines were shut down by the end of the 1970s. Mining these resource-abundant seafloor deposits could help shake off Japan’s reputation as a nation with few resources.

At a press conference at the end of January, Tetsuro Urabe, a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, could hardly conceal his excitement. He was announcing the discovery of a deposit about 1,400 meters below the ocean surface off Okinawa Prefecture’s Kumejima island.

“The minerals there are of a quality I’ve never seen before,” Urabe said. “One could say this discovery is astonishing.”

The research was conducted by Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) using a remote-controlled vehicle, which retrieved six samples of ore with copper concentrations 15 to 30 times higher than those mined in South America.

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Deep sea mining hopes hit by New Zealand decision – by Jamie Smyth (Financial Times – February 22, 2015)

Sydney – A decision to block a deep sea mining venture off the New Zealand coast has cast a shadow over an emerging global industry that proponents say could revolutionise how minerals are extracted.

The sea floor is rich in copper, nickel, manganese, cobalt, zinc and a host of other minerals used in technology products. Improvements in undersea extraction technology have now put these within reach of miners.

New Zealand has lead the way in developing sea floor mining. But progress has now stalled following this month’s rejection by environmental regulators of a proposed project by Chatham Rock Phosphate off the coast of Canterbury, the second mine application refused within a year.

The decisions were welcomed by green groups, who fret that mining would damage vulnerable undersea ecosystems, which are relatively underexplored. But their delight is not shared by companies eyeing deep sea prospects.

“To say we are bitterly disappointed is an understatement,” said Chris Castle, Chatham Rock Phosphate’s managing director. “This will make it even harder, if not impossible for companies to attract capital for new projects in New Zealand.”

For almost 20 years deep sea mining has been flagged as a commercial opportunity. David Cameron, UK prime minister, claims it could be worth £40bn to the UK over a 30-year period.

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