Introduction

Background

Earth provides natural resources, such as fossil fuels and minerals that are vital for human life. As the global demand grows, especially for strategic metals, commodity prices rapidly rise. Thus there is an identifiable risk of increasing supply shortage for metals identified as critical to Europe’s economy. Hence a major element in Europe’s long-term economic strategy must be, to ensure security of supply for these strategic metals. In this rapidly changing global economic landscape, mining in the deep sea has gone from a distant possibility to a likely reality within just a decade. Although deep sea minerals extraction was investigated in the 1970’s, it was abandoned because of changing commodity economics, advances in on-land exploration techniques, growing concern on environmental impact and political and legal aspects with regard to ownership issues. The developmental data from those days, if still available, are not adequate to allow engineering and building of an integral system for extraction of deep sea minerals without additional RTD work. Thus, deep sea mining is yet to attain a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) sufficient to successfully undertake deep sea mining operations, from resource discovery to resource assessment and to resource exploitation.

Objective

The overall objective of Blue Mining is to provide breakthrough solutions for a sustainable deep sea mining value chain. This means to develop the technical capabilities to adequately and cost-effectively discover, assess and extract deep sea mineral deposits up to 6,000 m water depths as this is the required range where valuable seafloor mineral resources are found. The control over these three capabilities is the key for access to raw materials, for decreasing EU dependency on resource imports and for strengthening Europe’s mining sector and their technology providers.

“Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by sea and oceans, yet we seem to know less about our ocean space than outer space. Blue Mining is set to change that with 19 European companies and institutions searching for answers to what minerals lie beneath, how environmental sustainability can be maintained, the economics of deep sea mining and the technology to be developed. The world needs mining so let’s act responsibly as explorers, scientists and engineers in this the last frontier for the expansion of mining on earth.”

‘IHC Merwede’, PMC Director Deep Sea Mining, Rodney Norman

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