December 2018 · Volume 3, Issue 5                    Subscribe | Visit Website
The MV Nor Sky, a vessel chartered in 2008 by Nautilus Minerals to conduct environmental assessment at Solwara I, steams past the Tavurvur volcano near Rabaul. 

For Nautilus Minerals, the debt comes due. 

2018 was supposed to be the year for Nautilus Minerals. Their three seafloor production tools—large underwater robots capable of mining seafloor massive sulphides from 1600 meters depth—were finally in hand and undergoing submerged testing. Their ship, the Nautilus New Era, was nearing completion. They had only a few hurdles left to clear before beginning production at Solwara I, the much-vaunted site of the world’s first deep sea mining operation.

Then the floor dropped out.

Read more: For Nautilus Minerals, the debt comes due.

From the Editor: Happy holidays from the DSM Observer

As my first year as the editor of the DSM Observer comes to a close, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your emails, leads, tips, interviews, support, and attention. The DSM Observer is here to be a resource for everyone involved in the deep-sea mining industry, from life-long pros who worked on the first Glomar Explorer surveys in the late 70s to brand new stakeholders just beginning to work their way through the often inscrutable jargon of the industry. This newsletter wouldn't be possible without the help of all the people who sat down for an interview (or just to provide background) and the freelancers who contributed their own voice and expertise to this endeavor. 

2018 was a huge year for deep-sea mining and the broader deep-sea research community, with new discoveries, technical advancements, and the stately march towards exploitation regulations for polymetallic nodules in the Area. 2019 will likely see just as many, if not more, developments in the deep-sea mining world. We have big plans for the DSM Observer, too. 

In this issue, we investigate the current status of Nautilus Minerals, the loss of their production support vessel, and what the future might hold for this company. We look at some end-of-the year studies which shine new light on deep sea ecosystems, and Dr. Amy Freitag, who co-teaches Social Media for Environmental Communications with me at Duke University, maps and analyzes the online conversation surrounding deep-sea mining. 


Minerals Under Water: The Science and Politics of the New Frontier for Extractive Industries

Chapters on a range of topics related to deep sea mining are solicited for a book being edited by Dr. Andrew Thaler, in association with the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. This book will synthesize the most current knowledge on the topic across natural and social science disciplines. The book is timely as mining under water in both marine and freshwater systems is gaining traction worldwide and the environmental and social impact of the extraction is being widely debated.

We welcome academics and practitioners collaborating on chapters, as well as inclusion of scholars from developing countries.  The book will be divided into four parts and chapters should fall under one of the following categories:




Contributions from all ranges of disciplines are invited. Book chapters should be approximately 3000 to 5000 words and written in professional academic cadence with citations, as the manuscript will undergo rigorous peer review. 

Read more and submit your abstracts here.

A year of discovery in the deep sea

2018 was a banner year for studies highlighting the importance of hydrothermal vents not just to the highly specialized communities that thrive around seafloor massive sulphides, but also to the surrounding benthic community. Vents provide nursery grounds for octopuses and deep-sea skates, but they also provide food for deep-sea and shallow water animals. 

At shallow-water vents along the southwestern edge of the Okinawa Trough, researchers examined the trophic relationships between vent-dependent crab, animals common to the region, and their food sources. Almost half of the crabs’ diet came from organic matter that traces its origin back to the vent plume, rather than from photosynthetic sources. They also found that this held true not just for the species that lived exclusively on the vents, but also other benthic crustaceans, including krill, amphipods, and mysid shrimp, who derive half their diet from the products of hydrothermal venting. 

Examples of metazoan megafauna photographed at the APEI6 seafloor during AUV survey. 

Read more: A year of discovery in the deep sea.

New Resources

Upcoming Events

Career Opportunities

  1. Marine Advanced Technology Education: 6-month at-sea marine technician internship.
"In August 2018, the DEEP SEARCH science team aboard R/V Atlantis conducted two dives in the Alvin submersible approximately 160 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. During the dives, the team observed extensive reefs composed of the deep-sea stony coral, Lophelia pertusa. When combined with previously collected mapping data, these visual observations suggest there could be approximately 85 linear miles of discontinuous Lophelia reef off the U.S. East Coast. Prior to this discovery, we did not know this reef was there"
Deep-sea Mining News in Brief

Courtesy Nautilus MInerals.

A high-profile deep-sea mining company is struggling

(The Economist) After listing on the Toronto stock exchange in 2006 Nautilus Minerals became the public face of a daring new industry: deep-sea mining. 

Read More: A high-profile deep-sea mining company is struggling.


Photo courtesy NOAA.

(The Conversation) When people think of coral reefs, they typically picture warm, clear waters with brightly colored corals and fishes. But other corals live in deep, dark, cold waters, often far from shore in remote locations.

Read More: Deepwater corals thrive at the bottom of the ocean, but can’t escape human impacts.

Recent Press Headlines


Project ULTRA will Explore Deep-seafloor Mineral Deposits 

An inactive seafloor massive sulphide. Photo courtesy NOC.

One of the great catch-22s in exploring and ultimately exploiting seafloor massive sulphides is that the chemical signal that makes these sites easy to find--the massive buoyant plume of hydrothermal fluid--is the same phenomenon that allows for diverse, ecologically unique ecosystems to grow around SMS deposits. Inactive and extinct SMS deposits that still contain valuable ores but lack these iconic communities could be much more appealing targets for exploitation. But SMS deposits make up only a tiny fraction of the seafloor, and finding them without a plume signal is difficult. 

The National Oceanography Center in Southampton was recently awarded funding for Project ULTRA, a program to explore and assess extinct SMS deposits for mineral composition. This project, led by Dr. Bramley Murton, will address inactive and buried SMS deposits still contain valuable metals, have the minerals dissolved over the centuries, or have they become more concentrated?

Read more about the project here: New Technique Developed to Explore Seafloor Mineral Deposits.

Mapping the online conversation around Deep-sea Mining. 

A small portion of the online conversation around deep-sea mining. 

The world of social media can offer a snapshot of the social networks surrounding a particular issue. It makes public the conversations and relationships that once were hidden behind closed doors and over private phone lines. And, when the conversation is well-organized, it takes on a hashtag that makes it searchable as well. What you see below is the snapshot of the people who have participated in a conversation using the hashtag #deepseamining in the last week (12/10/18 to 12/18/18) on twitter. In terms of social networks of environmental or business issues, it’s fairly small, consisting of just 77 tweets. And yet, it offers a glimpse into the people of deep sea mining.

Read the full article here: Mapping the online conversation around Deep-sea Mining

Visit DSM Observer
DSM Observer is a free online resource for deep-sea mining professionals, providing access to the latest news and information about the industry in a single place. Our monthly e-newsletter features updates on technology, business news, deep sea science, environmental issues, and policy.

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Submissions of guest editorials and multimedia content are welcome and will be considered on a case by case basis.

DSM Observer is published by Blackbeard Biologic: Science and Environmental Advisors, via a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences. Editor-in-chief: Andrew Thaler
Copyright © 2018 Blackbeard Biologic: Science and Environmental Advisors, All rights reserved.

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