Marine mineral resources, such as polymetallic nodules, crusts and submarine-exhalative sulphides have recently become the target of policy makers, mining companies and deep sea researchers. The lack or limited availability of certain high tech elements or minerals in terrestrial ore deposits, essential for the electronics industry, future transportation concepts, or the new generation of alternative energies, have made raw materials from the marine environment a target for future mining operations. However, commercial deep-sea mining will always cause a major impact on local ecosystems. The collector unit gathering nodules will destroy the top few centimetres of the seabed, causing major disturbance and disruption of the flora and fauna in the mining tracks. In addition, the propulsion system of the collector will stir up sediments; as a result, organisms in and around the track will be partially or entirely buried. To minimize human impact on the benthic community, long term studies of environmental consequences prior to any mining activities are essential and required by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). The principal aim of the JPI Oceans action MiningImpact is to study of the long-term ecological effects of deep-sea mining.
In its first phase (2014-2017) MiningImpact (then also called “Ecological Aspects of Deep-Sea Mining, EADSM) undertook two research expedition (SO239 and SO242) with the German research vessel RV SONNE in the North-East Pacific. The results of these expeditions have already been presented to ISA.
I its second Phase (2018-2022) the project studys during expedition SO268 the regional connectivity of species in the deep-sea of the Clarion Clipperton Zone and their resilience to impacts, and the integrated effects on ecosystem functions, such as the benthic food-web and biogeochemical processes.
In this blog participating scientists report about their work onboard RV SONNE during the cruises SO239, SO242-1 and SO242-2, SO268, in the lab at home or about other aspects of the topic.
More information in the project and contacts you can find on the MiningImpact Website.