October 2018 · Volume 3, Issue 3                    Subscribe | Visit Website
The Maersk Launcher, DeepGreen's support ship. with the Ocean Cleanup System 001.

DeepGreen's vision for the next generation of deep-sea mining

“This is an electric vehicle battery,” Gerard Barron exclaims as he holds a fist-size nodule, dark and lumpy, up to the screen. For Barron, CEO of DeepGreen Resources, harvesting polymetallic metals from the seafloor is not just a new mining venture, it is a mission to transition away from fossil fuels into a new, green economy. “The new engine is the battery,” and polymetallic nodules, he explains, contain almost every metal and mineral needed to build the next generation of high-capacity batteries.

DeepGreen is a relative newcomer to the deep-sea mining world, where companies like Lockheed have been exploring the potential of polymetallic nodule mining for decades. Founded in 2011, DeepGreen has exploration leases in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, where they are currently conducting seafloor surveys, both to assess the value of their nodule fields and to understand the potential environmental impact.

DeepGreen recently made headlines by partnering with the Ocean Cleanup to deploy their plastic collecting boom in the northeast Pacific. Barron saw it as a natural partnership. “You don’t see carbon pollution,” says Barron. “You do see plastic.” Barron views ocean plastics and climate change as two aspects of the same problem: a terminal reliance on fossil fuels.

Read more: DeepGreen's vision for the next generation of deep-sea mining.

From the Editor: Getting a handle on jargon

Deep-sea mining is plagued by inscrutable jargon that makes it very difficult to newcomers to engage meaningfully with the industry. In the course of a single statement, we can discuss ABNJs, BBNJs, EIAs from BSR, REMPs for the CCZ, SPTs on PSVs near SMSs, all of which may be operating in what the ISA refers to simply as The Area. There’s a snail called Nautilus (Ifremeria nautilei) named after a submarine called Nautilus named after a different, fictional submarine called Nautilus, named after the cephalopod Nautilus. And that snail occurs on a mining prospect leased by Nautilus. This situation is not particularly forgiving to new stakeholders.

In this issue, I chat with Gerard Barron and Dr. Samantha Smith of DeepGreen to talk about their company’s vision for the future of seafloor minerals. We look at some new technology being trialed in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. And I spend some time disambiguating the various Nautili and Neptunes associate with the deep-sea mining community.

Read more: From the Editor: Getting a handle on jargon.

Global Sea Mineral Resources unveils the Patania II nodule collector

This week, Global Sea Mineral Resources unveiled Patania II, a pre-prototype polymetallic nodule collector built to work in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. Patania II is the successor to Patania I, which was successfully tested in the Central Pacific Ocean last year.

Patania I was a track system designed to crawl across the deep seafloor of Belgium’s Global Sea Mineral Resources and Germany’s Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources lease blocks. It completed sea trials to 4,500m in 2017. Patania II adds a suction-based polymetallic nodule collecting system to the Patania I’s track systems. If trials are successful, the pre-prototype will be the most advanced polymetallic nodule collecting system to have been trialed at mining depth.

Patania II, courtesy DEME.

Read more: Global Sea Mineral Resources unveils the Patania II nodule collector

The hidden abundance in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone

The surprising diversity in the Clarion–Clipperton zone includes red shrimp (Cerataspis monstrosus), a rattail fish (Coryphaenoides yaquinae) and crustaceans called amphipods.Credit: Astrid B. Leitner, Craig R. Smith, Jeff C. Drazen, DeepCCZ project
Amy Maxmen covers the latest CCZ discoveries revealed at last month's Deep Sea Biology Symposium. It is among the most detailed popular science overviews of the biodiversity of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone to date. One thing is for certain: there is a lot more to be discovered in the CCZ.

"Deep in the eastern central Pacific Ocean, on a stretch of sea floor nearly as big as the continental United States, researchers are discovering species faster than they can name them. And they are exploring newfound fossil beds of whales that lived up to 16 million years ago."

Read the full article here: Discovery of vibrant deep-sea life prompts new worries over seabed mining.

New Resources

Upcoming Events

Career Opportunities

  1. (Nekton Deep Ocean Exploration) Programme Manager.
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Michael Lodge, Secretary General of the ISA, shares his excitement at the unveiling of Patania II.

Deep-sea Mining News in Brief

Courtesy Anthropocene.

New Battery Soaks Up Carbon Dioxide.

(Anthropocene) Researchers at MIT have made a new lithium-based battery that runs on carbon dioxide taken directly from a power plant. Their proof-of-concept battery, reported in the journal Joule, is a clever way to produce energy while cutting carbon dioxide emissions.. 

Read More: New Battery Soaks Up Carbon Dioxide


China is expected to produce more e-waste than the United States or the European Union by 2030 (Image: Global E-Waste Monitor)

The treasure hidden in our gadgets

(China Dialogue) Gold is the most valuable metal in a phone. One tonne of gold ore contains around 1-5 grams of pure gold – but a tonne of mobile phones contains upwards of 300 grams, explains Professor Jason Love. In fact, an estimated 7% of gold in circulation around the world is contained in the circuitry of electronic devices, he points out.

Read More: The treasure hidden in our gadgets


Recent Press Headlines


Elements of Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits

A cross-section through the Earth's crust showing the different types of plate boundary, the topography of the ocean floor and the distribution of the major metal-rich deep-ocean mineral deposits. Image: Ian Longhurst (Copyright British Geological Survey © UKRI 2018).

Elements, one of the premier international magazines of mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry, published a special topics issue this month on deep-sea mineral deposits. The current issue was edited by Drs. Paul Lusty and Bramley Murton. Though most of the articles are locked behind a paywall, Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits: Metal Resources and Windows into Earth Processes by Paul Lusty and Bramley Murton is open-access. Other key articles include:

Read the special issue here: Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits.

Bed of Ifremeria nautilei. Photo: CRF/Ridge2000

A glossary of Neptunes and Nautili in Deep-sea Mining

If you were to ask a new stakeholder to name the most frustrating aspect of trying to understand the current state of deep-sea mining, they would likely begin with the arcane acronyms and idioms of The Authority (that’s the International Seabed Authority for those still struggling with the lingo). Not far behind would be the proliferation of companies and organizations with nearly the same name. At the Deep-sea Biology Symposium, recently, one speaker even had to specify that they were with Neptune, “but not that Neptune or the other Neptune”.

For historical reasons, Neptune and Nautilus are the two most frequently used names across all ocean industries. In addition to a very charismatic cephalopod, the Nautilus was Captain Nemo’s submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea while Neptune was the Roman god of the sea (and a much less clunky word than Poseidon). To help provide some clarity to those new to the industry, we have compiled a short glossary of Neptunes and Nautili relevant to the deep-sea mining community.

Read more: A glossary of Neptunes and Nautili.

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 © 2018 Blackbeard Biologic: Science and Environmental Advisors, All rights reserved.

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