Ecological aspects of deep-sea mining

Joint Action Facts
Action period: February 2013
Funding: € 13,200,000
Strategic area:
  • Exploring the Deep-Sea
Type of action:
  • Accessing or sharing of marine infrastructures
  • Procedures or agreements for transnational access and sharing of infrastructures
Lead countries:
  • Germany
More Information
Secretariat Contact:

John Hanus

E-mail: hanus@deutsche-meeresforschung.de

Tel. +32 (0) 2 733 89 48

About

The JPI Oceans action 'Ecological aspects of deep-sea mining' aims at assessing the long-term impacts of polymetallic nodule mining on the deep-sea environment. Core of the action is the research project ‘MiningImpact’ which conducted three marine research campaigns in 2015 on the RV Sonne visiting several license areas and two Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) as well as the DISCOL benthic impact experiment in the Peru Basin.

Objectives

Jointly analyse the long-term ecological consequences of deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining to provide the knowledge base and inform the development of the international regulation regime of deep sea mining activities by: 
  • Predicting the ecological, biogeochemical and hydrodynamic consequences of a mining impact. 
  • Testing a range of modern rapid assessment methods and monitoring techniques for defining the ecosystem status. 
  • Communicating the results to stakeholders and policymakers. 
  • Conducting a comparative baseline study across different deep-sea environments (e.g. trophic states and seamounts)

Impact

The action and its research project 'MiningImpact' are expected to improve our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and the impact of mining thereon. The project has not only attracted interest from the the G7 Science Ministers in their Communiqué from October 2015, but it is also delivering input into the development of the international Mining Code (set of regulations for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the deep seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction), which the International Seabed Authority is in the process of negotiating. At the 22nd Session of the Authority in July 2016, MiningImpact presented these results in order to ensure that the international deep sea mining regime is built on a solid scientific basis and the best available knowledge.

Scientists involved in the project also published the results from the recent research campaign in Nature, demonstrating that polymetallic nodule fields are hotspots of abundance and diversity for a highly vulnerable abyssal fauna. 

Background

Global interest in the exploration and exploitation of deep-sea minerals is on the rise. Enabled by technological advances and driven by geopolitical, economic and scientific motivations, public and private alike are increasingly venturing to the edges of the continental shelves and into areas beyond national jurisdiction in search of new resources. However, deep-sea ecosystems and the potential effects of mining activities on them are poorly understood. Therefore, member countries of JPI Oceans decided to launch a joint research activity in the field.
 
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) provided 118 days of ship time for onsite research in the Pacific on the RV SONNE. Over the course of three cruises, researchers from 11 countries mapped habitats, studied deep sea ecosystems and investigated their functioning in addition to predicting and identifying the environmental implications of nodule and sediment removal, sediment plume dispersion and re-deposition caused by mining activities. The project started in January 2015 and will run for 36 months with an overall budget of approximately €9.5m. Following the cruises which were finalised in October 2015, scientists are evaluating the collected data on-shore in the participating institutes.
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