As part of a European research project, Germany is investigating the mining of metalliferous tubers in the deep sea. In the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico, a device that can absorb so-called manganese nodules from the sea floor will be tested by mid-May, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) announced on Wednesday. The tubers contain raw materials that are important for renewable energy technologies and electrical appliances, besides manganese these are nickel, copper and cobalt.
Giant vacuum cleaner on the ocean floor
The work for the “Mining Impact” project will initially take place in a Belgian and then in a German manganese nodule license area. The collector prototype from the Belgian company Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) is lowered to a depth of 4,500 meters. The prototype with the name “Patania II” consists according to BGR notification consisting of a chassis and a hydraulic pick-up system through which the lumps are sucked in together with the surrounding sediment. According to GSR the bulb collector is supplied with energy and controlled by a five-kilometer cable from the ship.
In addition, two diving robots and around 40 different sensors are in use on the sea floor. A team of 23 scientists on board the Norwegian ship “Island Pride” is to research the environmental impact. According to the BGR, it is the world’s first test of its kind.
Greenpeace warns of species extinction
The environmental protection organization Greenpeace warned against exploiting the seabed. “Industrial deep-sea mining would accelerate the rapid extinction of species in the oceans. This ecological catastrophe must be prevented”, said the marine biologist Sandra Schöttner. On Tuesday night, Greenpeace activists demonstrated in the northeastern Pacific on the ship “Rainbow Warrior” in front of the industrial ship “Maersk Launcher”, from which the Canadian company Deepgreen Metals is planning to mine raw materials.
Since 2006, the BGR has been exploring a manganese nodule area in the Pacific on behalf of the German government. The basis for this is a contract with the International Seabed Authority, which gives Germany the exclusive right to examine the existence of manganese nodules and the environmental conditions over a period of 15 years on a marine area of 75,000 square kilometers. The project expires on July 18th. The exploration precedes a possible industrial use. The aim is to secure Germany’s long-term supply of raw materials such as manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt. So far, Germany has been dependent on imports from other countries.