European consortium launches seabed mining project

“Subsea harvesting” is an interesting way to describe open cut strip mining of the sea floor, and all this European interest in seabed mining casts a rather different light on the SPC’s EU funded seabed mining project – just who is that project set up to benefit… 

nautilus robot machine

David Foxwell | Offshore Support Journal | 17 March 2016

February saw a European consortium launch a new Horizon 2020 project known as Blue Nodules. The project addresses the challenge of creating a viable and sustainable value chain to retrieve polymetallic nodules from the seabed. It will develop and test new highly-automated and sustainable technologies for deep-sea mining with minimal environmental pressures.

The technical side of the project is dedicated to subsea harvesting equipment in addition to the in-situ seafloor and sea surface processing of polymetallic nodules. The operational aspect focuses on sea operations and logistics, including compliance with, and development of, rules and regulations, and the business case. The independent, environmental part of the initiative will focus on environmental pressures and on an environmental impact assessment. In all areas, Blue Nodules will build on the results of the European FP7 projects, MIDAS and Blue Mining and the EcoMining pilot action funded by the JPI Oceans initiative of the European science foundations.

Rodney Norman, director at IHC Mining, part of Royal IHC, which is co-ordinating the project, explained that Blue Nodules is significant because it allows the European consortium to expand technological development beyond the vertical transportation system of Blue Mining to the seafloor mining vehicle and other components of the system. On 9 and 10 February, IHC Mining, which is the coordinator of the project, hosted a Blue Nodules kick-off meeting at its premises in Kinderdijk.

“The partners are excited to launch the project and start working together to achieve its objectives,” they said in a statement. “Stakeholder expectations will be taken into account by way of a stakeholder group and an advisory board. An independent ethics advisor will safeguard the ethics standards of the project.”

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Filed under Environmental impact, Exploration, Human rights, Pacific region

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