Managing Impacts of Deep Sea Resource Exploitation
Deep-sea mining has been identified as one of the potential new blue growth sectors by the European Union (ECORYS, 2012), driven by increasing demand for raw materials.
This demand has arisen through a combination of factors including increasing consumer demand in emerging economies, the development of new technologies that require increased supply of metals such as copper (e.g., the renewable energy sector) and issues related to security of supply (ECORYS, 2014; UNEP, 2014).
At the same time, the grade (quality) of ore from land-based mines continues to decline; some of the largest operations such as the Chuquicamata mine in Chile currently extract ore at a grade of 0.7% copper, which compares unfavourably against the average 1.3% copper content found in polymetallic nodules and up to several per cent in SMS deposits.
The MIDAS project ran from 2013-2016, covering a wide array of topics all aimed at helping the nascent deep-sea mining industry, regualtors and civil society to understand the potential impacts of mining on deep-sea ecosystems.
The project focused mainly on the potential impacts associated with extraction of manganese nodules and seafloor massive sulphides (SMS), but also addressed environmental issues related to the exploitation of methane gas hydrates, and the potential of deep-sea muds in the North Atlantic as a source of rare earth elements (REEs).