Correction: Evaluation of the effects of nodule mining on the deep sea environment

The European Union is monitoring the first on-site test of a prototype assembly vehicle in the Pacific

Credit: ROV KIEL6000, GEOMAR.

Joint press release of GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Alfred-Wegener Institute Helmholtz Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Senckenberg-Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH, Marom – Center for Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen, Max – Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research, University of Utrecht, Everimer, University of Ghent, University of Aveiro, Institute for Marine Research in Acores, Institut Portoguez de Mar y de Atmosfera, Center for Marine and Environmental Research at Universidad de Algarve, Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research at the Universidade do Porto , Biodata Mining Group at the University of Bielefeld, SNF Center for Applied Research at NHH, German Research Alliance, Joint Programming Initiative, Healthy Seas and Oceans and Productive


Apr 6, 2021 / Kiel, San Diego JPI Oceans “MiningImpact” scientists embark on a 6-week expedition to the Clarion-Clipperton Fault Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean. Their goal is to conduct an independent scientific observation to test a pre-prototype nodule collecting machine performed in parallel from a second vessel by the Belgian company Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR). MiningImpact fully adheres to good scientific practice and all data will be made publicly available. The results of this integrated impact analysis will be transmitted into recommendations to improve environmental standards and mining law guidelines currently being formulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

The MiningImpact study sites are located in the Clarion-Clipperton Fault Zone (CCZ) at water depths of over 4,000 meters and more than 1,500 kilometers off the Mexican coast. The area of ​​the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture is five million square kilometers, with manganese nodules in abundance on the sea floor. These nodules are concentrated minerals of economic importance for high-tech products used in energy conversion, mobility and telecommunications, such as copper, cobalt, and nickel.

This seabed area between Mexico and Hawaii lies outside the exclusive economic zones of any country and is part of the common heritage of mankind. This common area is administered by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) based in Kingston, Jamaica, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which 167 countries and the European Union have acceded. ISA is currently working on the Exploitation Regulations for the “Mining Code”, which will form the legal framework for future deep sea mining activities, and are being developed through an iterative process with numerous stakeholder consultations. These international regulations should include stringent environmental standards, such as establishing an environmental baseline, monitoring mining operations, as well as threshold values ​​for ecosystem health impacts and indicators. To form these regulations, scientific knowledge about the environmental impacts of deep sea mining is urgently needed. The JPI Oceans collaborative project “MiningImpact” is dedicated to contributing to assessing these impacts and proposing solutions to prevent serious damage to the abyssal ecosystem.

The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) chartered the multi-purpose vessel Island Pride and invited the partners of “MiningImpact” to conduct their independent monitoring of a test of nodule aggregation before the prototype of this vessel. The Belgian company GSR agreed to independently investigate its activities and worked closely with scientists to give them access to all experimental activities. These experiments will be conducted in the Belgian and German decade regions in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. “This provides a unique opportunity for us to collect, for the first time, quantitative scientific evidence about the environmental consequences of nodule extraction in a more realistic scenario than was previously possible,” explains project coordinator Dr. Matthias Heigl of GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research. Agent. The investigations will not only address the direct effects that the collector vehicle will produce by harvesting manganese nodules, but will also address the effects caused by the suspended sediment column created by this process and affecting a much larger area. The data will provide information on potential future mining ecosystem impacts that cannot be gleaned from small-scale bottom-impact experiments conducted in the past.

At the same time, a fully integrated monitoring approach will be tested that will guide future needs to monitor deep-sea human activities to ensure compliance with environmental standards and targets. “The use of state-of-the-art scientific equipment will allow us to determine the spread of the suspended sediment column produced by the vehicle harvesting the nodules as well as cover the adjacent sea floor by resettling the fall from this column. We will finally be able to determine numbers for this type of effect,” says Dr. Henko De Stigter. From the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), which leads the array of column sensors on board.

Together with manganese nodules, the collector is expected to remove 10-15 cm from the seabed and the animals that live on and inside it. “ In addition to surveying biodiversity loss across different animal classes, our work also includes studies on biogeochemical fluxes, microbial turnover rates and ecosystem functioning, on-site environmental toxicology, trace mineral release from suspended sediment column as well as noise and light emissions by the collector vehicle and more. That much, “says Dr. Haeckel, to summarize the main goals of the expedition. Among the specialized tools to be deployed are two remote-operated vehicles (ROVs), an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), on-site oxygen filters and experimental rooms, on-site pumps as well as fifty calibrated hydroacoustic and optical sensors. To measure suspended sediment concentrations and particle sizes.

The JPI Oceans “MiningImpact” project has investigated the environmental consequences of deep-sea mining and how impacts can be mitigated since 2015. It included an assessment of decade-old pathways from previous studies as well as small experiments to understand the interaction between nodules removed and responses to deep-sea life. The first phase, which has already been completed, provided essential initial insights into the expected long-term impacts of deep sea mining. Now, in the second phase, the scientists plan to conduct comprehensive monitoring of the immediate environmental impacts of the first test of the industrial complex’s prototype in real time. The first attempt to test the collector by GSR in Spring 2019 was not made due to a technical malfunction of the power and communication cable for this device.

“The research being undertaken by the MiningImpact Consortium is extremely important and necessary to ensure that the marine environment in the deep sea is protected to the highest possible standards,” says Professor Katia Matisse, Director of GEOMAR. “The results of this project will provide the scientific evidence that the International Seabed Authority urgently needs as an input to improve environmental standards and mining law guidelines,” Mattis continues.

After twelve days of self-isolation in a San Diego hotel and repeated Covid-19 PCR tests, scientists are ready to begin the expedition being conducted under strict hygiene conditions.


Background: MiningImpact – Environmental impacts and risks of deep sea mining

The second phase of the “MiningImpact” project (2018-22) builds on the first phase and addresses three main research foci related to deep-sea mining: (1) the greater environmental impact of suspended sediment plume, (2) the regional interconnectedness of species and the biodiversity of biological populations and their resilience. In the face of impacts, and (3) integrated impacts on ecosystem functions, such as benthic food web and biogeochemical processes.

The “MiningImpact” project is implemented independently of DEME-GSR’s activities and does not receive any financial contributions from DEME-GSR. On the contrary, DEME-GSR does not receive any funding from the “MiningImpact” project. DEME-GSR is also implementing its monitoring program on board its vessel.

Funding for the project was provided under the Joint Programming Initiative, JPI Oceans, through:

  • Belgian Office for Science Policy (BELSPO) and Flanders Department EWI, Belgium
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany
  • Norwegian Research Council (RCN), Norway
  • Netherlands Scientific Research Organization (NWO), Netherlands
  • Fundação para a Ciência ea Tecnologia (FCT) and Direção-Geral de Política do Mar (DGPM), Portugal


https: //Mining.Geumar.from MiningImpact Project website

https: //Mining.Geumar.from/Events Stakeholder information event for the cruise

http: // jpi- oceans.European Union /Environmental Aspects – Deep Sea Mining JPI Oceans website

http: // www.bgr.Bond.from German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources

http: // www.awi.from Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research

https: //www.senckenberg.from/from/Institute /Toxic /dzmb Deutsches Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung, Senckenberg am Meer

https: //www.Jacobs University.from Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

https: //www.Marom.from Marom – Center for Marine Ecology at the University of Bremen

https: //www.Mpg.from/154811 /Marine biology Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

https: // Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

https: //www.Unl Utrecht University

https: //wwz.Frimmer.the father Ifremer

https: // being Ghent University

http: // Center for Environmental and Marine Studies, University of Aveiro

https: //Construction.Deer.Point The Marine Research Institute of the Azores

https: //www.ipma.Point Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Air

http: // www.Top.ualg.Point Marine and Environmental Research Center, University of Algarve

https: //www2.Cimar.above.Point Interdisciplinary Center for Marine and Environmental Research

https: //Bioremediation.Sibitec.Uni-Bielefeld.from Biodata Mining Group at the University of Bielefeld

http: // snf.No NHH’s Center for Applied Research
https: //www.allianz-meeresforschung.from German Research Alliance

Other readings:

Boetius A., Haeckel M. (2018) Concern with the seabed. Science 359 (6371), doi: 10.1126 / science. aap7301
https: //Science.Science.Deer /Content /359 /6371 /3.4

Vanreusel A., Hilario A., Ribeiro PA, Menot L., Martinez-Arbizu P. (2016) Threatened by mining, polymetallic nodules are required to conserve the abyssal reptiles. Scientific Reports 6, doi: 10.1038 / srep26808
https: //www.Temperate nature.Com /Articles /SB 26808

A Bioscience Issue: Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Deep Sea Mining – Rethinking Decade of Benthic Disruptions in Nodule Areas of the Pacific
https: //bg.Copernicus.Deer /Articles /Special Edition 942.programming language


Dr. Andreas Fellock (GEOMAR, Communications and Media), Tel: + 49-431 600-2802, [email protected]

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