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Environmental Impact

Hydrothermal vent. Photo by K.G. Jebsen Centre for Deep Sea Research UiB.

It is important to minimize environmental impact independent of the source of minerals. We must understand the risk and mitigate the potential negative impact related to both exploration and exploitation of marine minerals.

Marine mineral resources represent new environmental challenges that must be carefully managed. A key challenge for the exploitation of marine minerals are environmental concerns, including the potential for damage to unique ecosystems.

Seabed massive sulphides (SMS) deposits come with about 5-10 times higher ore grade than land-based sites, while nodules and crusts come with very limited waste and tailings. This suggests the potential for a lower environmental impact for marine minerals than current land-based mining.

Different types of resources could make it challenging to compare different projects. Studies by e.g., The Benchmark Minerals intelligence and Paulikas et al. shows significant lower waste, CO2 emissions and biomass risk with extracting seabed nodules versus land-based mining.

It is important to note that no company plan to exploit active hydrothermal vent systems, which is known for its unique ecosystems. Companies are targeting sites where minerals can be retrieved with a minimum environmental impact.

Project examples

GCE Ocean Technology is part of the Eco-Safe Ridge Mining project, which aims to fill some of the key knowledge gaps, assess environmental risks and identify appropriate mitigation actions regarding deep-sea mining.

The basis for being awarded Green Platform funding of the EMINENT project is the belief that deep sea mining can be performed with a significant lower environmental and climate impact compared to current land-based mining.

A broad international consortium has been established to develop the first handbook for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) disclosure in relation to marine minerals.

The purpose of the guidance document is to enable evidence-based assessments of the ESG performance of marine mineral projects in the context of global standards.

The development of this handbook is also intended to promote ESG thinking and improvements before any commercial activity begins.