Future innovations and research
Several long term research programs on Deep Sea Mining are running in the European Union in order to stimulate future Deep Sea Mining exploration. An important theme in these programs is sustainability, focussing on minimizing the environmental impact of future Deep Sea Mining operations.
MIDAS (2013 – 2016)
The MIDAS project - Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation - is a multidisciplinary research programme investigating the environmental impacts of extracting mineral and energy resources from the deep-sea environment. This includes the exploitation of materials such as polymetallic sulphides, manganese nodules, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, methane hydrates and the potential mining of rare earth elements.
Further information and project deliverables are available through the MIDAS website – https://www.eu-midas.net/.
ATLAS (2016 – 2020)
ATLAS is a 4-year research project (2016-2020) under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. Whilst it is much broader than deep-sea mining but has significant synergy with MIDAS. The intention is to generate new scientific evidence by bringing together trans-Atlantic case studies from contrasting deep-sea ecosystems in association with assessments of ecosystem health and Atlantic circulation.
More specifically the project objectives are to:
- Improve understanding of ocean dynamics and their relevance to North Atlantic Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) (including OSPAR High Seas MPAs) – their biodiversity, biogeographic patterns, biogeochemistry, goods and services – at basin and management relevant scales;
- Improve the capacity to make predictions about areas significant for their biodiversity importance, including the risk of different exploitation scenarios on their environmental health status and socioeconomic values to the broader stakeholder community; and
- Translate new knowledge and predictive capacities into novel integrated adaptive management tools.
Further information on the project can be found at the ATLAS website - http://www.eu-atlas.org/
Blue Mining (2014 – 2018)
An international European consortium of 19 industry and research organisations on various maritime fields of expertise has formed the “Blue Mining” consortium. The overall objective of Blue Mining is to provide breakthrough solutions for a sustainable deep sea mining value chain. The extreme conditions found on the deep-ocean floor raise specific challenges, both technically and environmentally, which are demanding and entirely different from land-based mining. Blue Mining means to develop the technical capabilities to adequately and cost-effectively discover, assess and extract deep sea mineral deposits up to 6,000 m water depths as this is the required range where valuable seafloor mineral resources are found.
Further information on the project is available through the Blue Mining website - http://www.bluemining.eu/
Marine E-tech (Ongoing)
New technologies such as those required for modern communication and computing and to produce clean renewable, low-carbon energy require considerable quantities of many metals. The Marine E-tech research programme is divided between two goals:
- Understanding the natural cycling of cobalt, tellurium and the rare-earth elements in a marine environment.
- Reducing the environmental impacts of metal recovery from seafloor mineral deposits.
To meet these objectives an international, multidisciplinary consortium was formed comprising universities, research centres and industry contributors. The research programme aims to improve understanding of E-tech element concentration in seafloor mineral deposits, in particular cobalt crusts, which are considered the largest yet least explored source of E-tech elements globally.
Further information on the project is available through the Marine E-tech website - http://prj.noc.ac.uk/marine-e-tech/
Blue Nodules (2016 – 2020)
Blue Nodules is a research and innovation project to develop a deep sea mining system for the harvesting of polymetallic nodules from the sea floor with minimum environmental impact. The project is proceeding to develop a highly-automated and technologically sustainable deep sea mining system for the harvesting of polymetallic nodules from the sea floor. This includes the seabed extraction vehicle and in-situ processing (sediment separation and sizing) and onboard process (dewatering and conditioning).
Further information on the project is available through the Blue Nodules website - http://www.blue-nodules.eu/
VAMOS (2015 – 2018)
The Viable Alternative Mine Operating System (VAMOS) project is to design and build a robotic, underwater mining prototype with associated launch and recovery equipment, which will be used to perform field tests at four EU mine sites.
The prototype is an automated solution for exploration, extraction and pre-processing of ores found in inland flooded mines or in shallow sea waters, and is attempting to engage with stakeholders to achieve environmental, economically and socially acceptable solutions to enable the exploitation of EU’s inland submerged mineral deposits.
Further information on the project is available through the VAMOS website - http://vamos-project.eu/
Blue Atlantis (2015 – 2020)
Blue Atlantis will establish the world’s only deep-sea mining test facility, covering RTD, mining tests, standards development and market access support in the Azores. The consortium has 45 partners from 8 European countries along the entire value chain. In addition to the mining test facility, the consortium is preparing and implementing a conceptual study for large scale facilities for deep-sea mining.
The pilot mining operation will cover the following key areas associated with exploration, utilisation and closure
Further information on the project is available through the VAMOS website - https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/eip-raw-materials/en/content/innovative-mining-marine-mineral-resources-%E2%80%93-european-pilot-mining-test-atlantic-tools
MERCES-Project (2016 – 2019)
The MERCES project is focused on the restoration of different degraded marine habitats, including deep sea habitats. One of it’s aims is to build upon the groundwork laid by restoration activities in other ecosystems, to develop principles, guidelines and tools for deep-sea restoration, including pilot studies in the deep sea.
Further information on the project is available through the MERCES website - http://www.merces-project.eu/