February 2019 · Volume 4, Issue 2                    Subscribe | Visit Website
A polymetallic nodule from the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, purchased from an online dealer. 

Nodules for sale: tracking the origin of polymetallic nodules from the CCZ on the open market. 

You can buy a 5-lb bag of polymetallic nodules from the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone on Amazon, right now.

Depending on your vantage point and how long you’ve participated in the deep-sea mining community, this will either come as a huge surprise or be completely unexceptional. Prior to the formation of the International Seabed Authority, there were no international rules governing the extraction of seafloor resources from the high seas. Multiple nations as well as private companies were engaged in exploration to assess the economic viability of extracting polymetallic nodules and tons of material was recovery from the seafloor for research and analysis. Some of that material almost certainly passed into private hands.

In 2019, however, the ISA oversees the potential commercialization of resources from the high seas and manages the Area (the seafloor beyond national jurisdiction) “for the good of mankind”. Ultimately, a portion of profits from mining in the high seas must be shared among member states, though the particular conditions of that process have not yet been enumerated. A nodule recovered today from the CCZ would not be legal to sell.

Read more: Nodules for sale: tracking the origin of polymetallic nodules from the CCZ on the open market.

From the Editor: The 25th Session of the ISA General Assembly Begins

Contractors, researchers, managers, conservationists, and other stakeholders make their way to Kingston, Jamaica next week for the 25th Session of the ISA General Assembly, where they will discuss the future of deep-sea mining in the high seas and how management "for the good of mankind" manifests itself in practice. 

The Deep-sea Mining Observer will be on site to cover the proceedings.

In the months leading up to the Assembly, I conducted a deep dive into polymetallic nodules currently for sale online, where they came from, and how this apparent commercialization of a high seas resource (though, spoilers, the nodules for sale were legally collected prior to the formation of the ISA) can help inform our understanding of how future commercialization might manifest. 

Enjoy and I'll see you in Kingston!

Keeping Up with the 25th session of the ISA General Assembly

The 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority General Assembly kicks off next week in Kingston, Jamaica. If you're not able to attend in person, there are several ways to keep up with the proceedings. 
There will be a livestream of the Council Meetings which you can watch here:

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin provides a daily breakdown of the proceedings and the formal and informal discussions that happen in the hallways afterwards. 

And, of course, you can follow the Deep-sea Mining Observer on Twitter and Instagram

Colossal Advancements in Accessible Deep-Ocean Technology

Kolossal tests their Deep Sea VR 360 camera. Photo courtesy Kolossal.

Accessing the deep seafloor is no small feat. Nations, institutions, contractors, and corporations make major capital investments into the tools and machines needed to explore and, ultimately, exploit the deep ocean. The enormous costs involved in deploying even basic equipment in 6000 meters of water has been among the biggest limiting factors in the development of deep-sea mining prospects and the hardest barrier for researchers studying the abyssal oceans.

As deep-sea mining approaches commercial viability, new low-cost tools are emerging that make exploration and research in the deep ocean financially accessible for a new generation of deep-sea stakeholders.

Read more: Colossal Advancements in Accessible Deep-Ocean Technology.

New Resources

Upcoming Events

Career Opportunities

  1. (Commonwealth) Legal Adviser (Oceans and Natural Resources).
  2. (ISA) Communications Specialist.
  3. (SCOR) Search for a New Executive Director for the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research.
  4. (NORI) Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. at-sea training opportunity.
  5. (Marawa) Marawa Research and Exploration Ltd. training opportunity.
Marine Geologist and PhD student at NOCS Adeline Dutrieux shared her knowledge of marine minerals for the International Day of Women in Science. 
Deep-sea Mining News in Brief

Screen grab from Al Jazeera Documentary.

China's Underwater Hunt

(Al Jazeera) In China's Underwater Hunt, a team of Chinese scientists embark on a daring deep-sea mission to find out - travelling to places no human has ever been, rich with rare resources and unique creatures.

Watch the video here: China's Underwater Hunt


The people of Duke of York Islands are tied spiritually to events in the deep sea. John Childs.

Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea

(The Conversation) "When they start mining the seabed, they’ll start mining part of me." These are the words of a clan chief of the Duke of York Islands – a small archipelago in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea which lies 30km from the world’s first commercial deep sea mine site, known as “Solwara 1”. The project, which has been delayed due to funding difficulties, is operated by Canadian company Nautilus Minerals and is poised to extract copper from the seabed, 1600m below the surface.

Read More: Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea.

Recent Press Headlines

(Maritime Executive) Pacific Island Governments Cautioned on Seabed Mining

(Engineering and Technology) Deep-sea mining: plundering the seafloor’s minerals

(Radio New Zealand) Talks in Tonga on future of seabed mining in Pacific

(Future Tense) All at sea - mapping, mining and Arctic shipping

(Mining Review Africa) Digital innovation drives the future of mining

(Commonwealth) Ground-breaking deep-sea exploration to boost good ocean governance

(New Scientist) Deep-sea mining could wreck the last unexplored ecosystem on Earth

(Pulse Live) Blue Economy: The new frontier for Africa's growth - An interview with Siddharth Chatterjee UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya

Delegates gather in Tonga to discuss seabed mining and future development in the Pacific

ISA’s Secretary-General, Michael Lodge, visits Tonga to discuss progress undertaken for the sustainable development of deep seabed resources in the Pacific. Photo courtesy ISA.
“Pacific Island countries, more than any others, understand very well that it is possible to use marine resources sustainably whilst also fulfilling their responsibilities to the marine environment,” Secretary-General Michael Lodge announced as he opened a recent meeting in the Kingdom of Tonga. “We need to turn natural capital into human capital, to improve living conditions and to create a better world for future generations.”
Officials, delegates, and experts from across the Pacific gathered in Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga to discuss strengthening national and regional capacities to access and benefit from seabed mining. The workshop was part of the joint ISA-UNDESA Abyssal initiative for Blue Growth to advance Sustainable Development Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

“For the Pacific Island countries fully dependent on the ocean for their survival, deep sea mineral resources have the potential to expand their resource base, build capacity and expertise and make an essential contribution to the development of their sustainable Blue Economy.” said Lodge. 

Mr. Akuila Tawake, Deputy Director, Georesources Sector and Energy Programme at the Pacific Community (SPC) emphasized the need to ensure that “Pacific Island Countries and communities will ultimately benefit from any deep sea mining initiative, including the responsible harnessing of deep sea mineral resources within national jurisdiction as well as in 'the Area.'”


Read more here: High-level regional workshop boosts participation of Pacific Island countries in deep sea activities to advance the Blue Economy.

Identifying and communicating the value of a hydrothermal vent

Figure 1. From Turner et al. (2019)

The deep sea has a PR problem. Most people have little to no conception of what deep ocean ecosystems look like, what lives there, or how human well-being may depend on them. Deep-sea ecosystems provide many indirect services that benefit humanity, yet they are poorly quantified and infrequently discussed. 

A new paper by graduate student Phillip Turner, uses an ecosystems principles approach to illustrate the value of deep-sea hydrothermal vents through expert surveys (disclaimer: Andrew Thaler is a co-author on this paper). 

The paper highlights broad consensus among deep-sea experts regarding provisioning and regulating that hydrothermal vents provide to broader ocean systems, the resource value of ore deposits and genetic novelty, as well as cultural services, in the form of artistic inspiration and educational value, inherent in these systems. It also points towards significant knowledge gaps that still remain in our understanding of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. 

Read the full paper here: Deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystem principles: Identification of ecosystem processes, services and communication of value

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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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 © 2019 Blackbeard Biologic: Science and Environmental Advisors, All rights reserved.

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