SUMMARY:

Several groups of mining engineers and environmental scientists have been conducting studies for the assessment of environmental impact and additional disturbance on the deep seabed. These studies influence the development of an individual mining system and its subsystems for the collection, screening and lifting of deepsea minerals and their transshipment on the ocean surface. Some experiments to assess and predict the potential impacts of deep seabed mining have also been conducted in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These studies have revealed several unknown physical, chemical, biological and geological conditions under which the mining system will have to operate, as well as potential impacts. However, owing to the uncertainty in design of the mining system and the difference in scale between commercial mining and test mining and its experiments, many of the results cannot be extrapolated or applied directly. Also, limitations of time and the operating mechanism of earlier experiments have left many questions unanswered questions such as the potential impact of sediment-water discharge in the water column. Hence, it is recommended that a large-scale environmental experiment be conducted in stages - first simulating the nodule pickup on the seafloor and the sediment discharge in the water column - at a selected site with a representative pickup system.

1.0 BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES

Deep-sea mining has been a subject of interest for several research groups for over three decades, due to its potential for the economical recovery of large reserves of minerals that could provide an alternative resource of strategic metals for industrial development. A deep-sea mining operation would offer a variety of challenges, owing to distant locations (thousands of miles from the coast), deep-sea mineral occurrences (5 to 6 km of water depths), extreme physical and chemical conditions (high pressure, low temperature) and unknown environmental settings.

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