August 2019 · Volume 4, Issue 7                               Subscribe | Visit Website
Scaly-foot snail. Image courtesy Sigwart and Chen.

An iron snail is the first species declared endangered by seabed mining.

In 2001, on an expedition to hydrothermal vent fields in the Indian Ocean, researchers made a bizarre discovery. Clustered in small aggregations around the base of a black smoker was an unusual snail, seemingly clad in a suit of armor. Rather than a single, hard, calcareous structure, the snail’s operculum was covered in a series of tough plates. On recovery to the surface, those plates, as well as the snail’s heavy shell, began to rust. This was an Iron Snail.

Chrysomallon squamiferum is a truly weird snail. It is the only known animal that builds its skeleton with iron. Rather than the conventional shell of calcium carbonate, the outermost layer of its shell is formed from a matrix of iron sulphides. The dermal scales that plate its foot and lend it a distinctively armored look are formed from the same ferrous materials. As a vent-dependent species, it plays host to chemoautotrophs, microbes hungry for the chemical energy emitted by a hydrothermal plume, which live in symbiosis with the snail, providing food for their host. The high oxygen demands of scaly-foot snail result in a massively oversized heart, at 4% of the animal’s body volume, the giant heart of Chrysomallon squamiferum is proportionally among the largest in the animal kingdom.

Read more: A big-hearted iron snail is the first deep-sea species to be declared endangered due to seabed mining.

From the Editor: Big moves at the second part of the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority

Last week saw the conclusion of the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority. Though much progress was made, significant work still lies ahead to meet to self-imposed 2020 deadline for implementing the draft exploitation regulations. As always, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin has provided a comprehensive summary of the overall meeting as well as day-to-day breakdowns of each Council and Assembly meeting.  

To provide stakeholders with a better insight into what it's like attending ISA sessions, we asked the newest members of DOSI's delegation, Maila Guilhon and Sergio Cambronero, to share their experience attending an ISA Council Meeting as Observers for the first time. 

In other news, the ill-fated Nautilus Minerals was unable to find a buyer and will now begin the process of liquidation and restructuring. This is confounded by the fact that  Kumul Mineral Holdings Limited, the Papua New Guinea government-backed entity who owns a share of the Solwara I mining prospect, has sued Nautilus for $51 million USD for failing to meet its funding obligations. 

Contractors faced significant opposition last month from both NGOs and scientific groups. The IUCN Red Listing of the Scaly-footed Snail came on the heals of two reports, one produced by Greenpeace and one by the Deep-sea Mining Campaign, condemning the industry. Greenpeace also staged a protest at the ISA meeting. As the industry continues to make progress towards establishing exploitation regulations and operationalizing the Enterprise, protest actions from environmental groups will likely increase. 

The Deep-sea Mining Observer will take a hiatus for the next month to focus on redesigning our website to better deliver the latest news in deep-sea mining. 

Read more: Big moves at the second part of the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority.

India launches ambitious new deep ocean research agenda

Indian research vessel exploring the 75,000 km sq. ISA lease block. Photo courtesy The Hindu.

Of all the world’s oceans, the Indian Ocean is among the least explored. This is especially true in the deep Indian Ocean, which is rarely visited, despite being host to numerous ecosystems hosting new and novel species not seen anywhere else in the world. At the recent ISA Council meeting, one delegate even noted in their intervention the biodiversity of the Indian Ocean was perceived to be low, an artifact of relatively few research expeditions endeavoring to explore this region.

That may soon change.

Last week, India announced the launch of the Deep Ocean Mission, a five year, $1.4 billion USD funding initiative to survey the deep sea, develop new exploration technologies, advance the country’s mining interests, and explore the potential for offshore desalination. “The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by [the Indian Space Research Organization] about 35 years ago” reads the funding report. “The mission will be launched by October 31. It will look into various aspects of ocean, with a special focus on sustainable harnessing of ocean resources,” said Dr. M. Rajeevan, Secretary to the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Read more: India launches ambitious new deep ocean research agenda.

Deep-sea mining and the future: Students share their experience as first-time observers at the ISA

Guilhon and Cambronero representing DOSI at the ISA.

Being deep-sea scientists is all about wandering into the unknown, strongly driven by our research motivations. Some people say that life is all about opportunities, and for us the opportunity to attend the Council meeting at 2nd part of the ISA Annual Session was one of those life changing experiences, a reinforcement of our passion for the unknown, for the deep, and for a better future.

Well before the opportunity to attend the International Seabed Authority (ISA) 25th Session in Kingston, masters student Maila Guilhon was investigating the potential threats to sea turtles in Ilhabela, a tourist island district off the coast of São Paulo, Brazil. She became interested in protecting areas located very far from people’s view but which were already reached by human activities, extending her studies miles from the coast, and that is how deep-sea mining became part of her life.

Read more: Deep-sea mining and the future: Students share their experience as first-time observers at the ISA.

New Resources

Upcoming Events

Career Opportunities

  1. (ISA) Contractor Training Opportunities.
Friends of Ocean Action tweeted out this excellent interactive article that provides a good overview of the history of deep-sea mining and the current issues facing the industry. 
Deep-sea Mining News in Brief

Photo courtesy NOAA.

Do we know enough about the deep sea to mine it?

(National Geographic) THE FATE OF fantastical deep sea creatures that live in unearthly habitats targeted for industrial mining might rest on a trove of scientific data collected by mining companies, but long kept secret.

Read more: Do we know enough about the deep sea to mine it?


Employees of SMD work on a subsea mining machine.

As China leads the hunt for deep-sea minerals, environmental and financial concerns come to the surface

(CNBC) Nasa may be scouring deep space for signs of life. Elon Musk might be looking to Mars. China’s scientists have had an eye cast skyward too – but, at the same time, the country seems keenly focused on challenges much closer to home – mineral riches in our oceans.

Read More: As China leads the hunt for deep-sea minerals, environmental and financial concerns come to the surface.

Recent Press Headlines

(Forbes) Deep Sea Mining Pushes 'Scaly-Foot' Snail Towards Extinction.

(Loop PNG) Nautilus liquidation looming

(The Maritime Executive) DeepGreen Responds to Greenpeace Seabed Mining Report.

(China Dialogue Ocean) ‘Urban mining’ can save the deep seabed from exploitation.

( Sea mining regulations to be set by 2020 despite criticism.

(The Guardian) Deep-sea mining to turn oceans into ‘new industrial frontier’.

(Reuters) U.N. deep sea mining body rejects Greenpeace criticism.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
University of Delaware

Join members of the deep-sea community for a presentation of chapters for Minerals Under Water: The Science and Politics of the new Frontier for Extractive Industries, which  synthesizes 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.

The book will be an anthology that is being developed as part of the University of Chicago’s Summits Series on Environmental Science and Policy, under the review of series co-editors Professor Saleem H. Ali and Dr. Andrew Thaler, in association with the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

Keynote Speakers include Dr. Samantha Smith, Head of Sustainability and External Relations, Global Sea Mineral Resources and Conn Nugent, Project Director, Seabed Mining Project, The Pew Charitable Trust.

New Observer Status Draft Requirements Spark Heated Debate at the ISA

Observers during the afternoon session. IISD Reporting Services.

Throughout the week-long Council Meeting of the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority, one issue continuously bubbled up in the breezeways, on the bus, and around the bars, a source of debate even though it would not be brought to the table until the Assembly convened the next Monday. The topic such intense discussion? A draft of the guidelines for observer status of non-governmental organizations with the International Seabed Authority.

Currently, the process for establishing observer status is relatively informal, with interested stakeholder groups submitting basic information and a letter of introduction to the Assembly, who votes to approve or reject. Potential observers have little guidance on how to navigate this process, what criteria they have to meet, and what is expected of them. More clear and detailed guidelines would provide a clearer pathway to observer status as more stakeholders become invested in the advancement of deep-sea mining regulations and the Assembly welcomed the introduction of more detailed guiding documents if not the contents of the current draft.

Read more: New Observer Status Draft Requirements Spark Heated Debate at the ISA.

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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