Interest of various states and companies in the mining of metal ores (polymetallic nodules, massive sulphides, and cobalt-rich crusts) from the abyssal seabed has been sparked by the projected future demands of metals for the transition to a low-carbon energy system and the increasing consumption of high-tech products in conjunction with global population growth. While extracting metals from deep-sea ores may contribute to the desired overall reduction of our CO2 emissions, it will certainly introduce a new environmental threat to our oceans. This talk will present results of the European JPI-Oceans project ‘MiningImpact’ with a particular focus on the design and initial results of the independent scientific monitoring of the first industrial trial of a pre-prototype nodule collector vehicle. Two trial areas have been investigated before, during and immediately after the trials of Patania II in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ). The different contract areas offer the ability to study two regions of the CCZ with different environmental conditions. The talk will summarize the challenges and consequences arising from the observed high spatial variability of environmental variables, the immediate impact-related changes in environmental conditions, such as biogeochemical fluxes, benthic macrofauna and meiofauna densities, endofauna, and it will discuss the strategy and methodologies applied to monitor sediment plume dispersal and environmental impacts. Initial results indicate that impacts will be at least locally severe and last for centuries to millennia. Larger-scale consequences are still uncertain due to the largely unknown species connectivity and our limited understanding of ecosystem structure and functions.
> Learn more about the recent MiningImpact SO295 expedition