Environmental impacts and risks of deep-sea mining

National funding through JPI Oceans (BMBF)
Partners: 30 institutions from Germany, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, France, Italy, Poland, Jamaica, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom

Project lead:

Dr. Matthias Haeckel (GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)

JUB – Scientists involved:

Prof. Dr. Andrea Koschinsky
Prof. Dr. Laurenz Thomsen
Dr. Sophie Paul (alumna, WG Koschinsky)
Dr. Benjamin Gillard (alumnus, WG Thomsen)
Dr. Luise Heinrich (PostDoc, WG Koschinsky)
Gloire Aganze (PhD Student, WG Koschinsky)

Duration: 08-2018 to 02-2022

Project website:

MiningImpact 2 is the second phase of the European research project ‘Environmental Impacts of Deep-sea Mining,’ led by Dr. Matthias Haeckel at GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. It concentrates on monitoring the environmental impacts caused during a test of GSR’s Patania II, a newly developed prototype of a collector vehicle to be used in the mining of manganese nodules at a water depth of about 5,000 m.

Introduction to the MiningImpact project

Focus areas:

1) the large-scale environmental impacts caused by suspended sediment plumes, 2) the regional connectivity of species and biodiversity and biodiversity assemblages and their resilience to deep-sea mining impacts, and 3) the integrated effects of deep-sea mining on functioning ecosystems, such as the benthic food web and biogeochemical processes.

Project objectives:

  • Develop and test monitoring concepts and strategies for deep-sea mining operations
  • Develop standardization procedures for monitoring and definitions for indicators of good environmental status
  • Investigate potential mitigation measures, such as spatial management plans of mining operations and means to facilitate ecosystem recovery
  • Develop sound methodologies to assess the environmental risks and estimate benefits, costs, and risks
  • Explore how uncertainties in the knowledge of impacts can be appropriately implemented into the regulatory framework

At Jacobs University, the focus is on the impacts on the sediment plume, and the integrated impacts on ecosystem functions.

Main objectives of the JUB workgroups:

  • Investigate impacts of a large-scale mining collector test on biogeochemistry, including the removal of sediment (i.e., possible change of metal distribution, the release of heavy metals, sediment compaction, and associated impacts on element cycling)
  • Investigate plume dispersal and associated interaction of (re-) suspended particles, and dissolved trace metals in the oxic water column (i.e., sorption processes, microbial interactions) as well as impacts of resettled material on the trace metal cycles of the underlying sediment, pore water, and organic matter degradation processes
  • Investigate size, aggregation processes, and hydrodynamic behavior of cohesive particles during and after transport of the mining plume within the bottom boundary layer
  • Evaluate employed environmental management and monitoring plans (EEMP) concept and monitoring technology
Main work areas of the JUB work groups

Project-related publications:

  • Paul, S. A. L.; Zitoun, R.; Noowong, A.; Manirajah, M. and Koschinsky A. (2021). Copper-binding ligands in deep-sea pore waters of the Pacific Ocean and potential impacts of polymetallic nodule mining on the copper cycle. Scientific reports 11: 18425.
  • Paul, S. A. L., Haeckel, M.,  Bau, M., Bajracharya, R. and Koschinsky, A. (2019): Small-scale heterogeneity of trace metals including rare earth elements and yttrium in deep-sea sediments and porewaters of the Peru Basin, southeastern equatorial Pacific. Biogeosciences 16 (24), 4829–4849. 10.5194/bg-16-4829-2019
  • Paul, S. A. L., Volz, J. B., Bau, M., Köster, M., Kasten, S. and  Koschinsky, A. (2019). Calcium phosphate control of REY patterns of siliceous-ooze-rich deep-sea sediments from the central equatorial Pacific. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 251, 56-72,  10.1016/j.gca.2019.02.019
  • Paul, S. A. L., Gaye, B., Haeckel, M., Kasten, S. and Koschinsky, A. (2018). Biogeochemical Regeneration of a Nodule Mining Disturbance Site: Trace Metals, DOC and Amino Acids in Deep-Sea Sediments and Pore Waters. Frontiers in Marine Science 5 (Article number 117). DOI 10.3389/fmars.2018.00117.
  • Gillard, B., Chatzievangelou, D., Thomsen, L., and Ullrich, M.S. (2019). Heavy-metal-resistant microorganisms in deep-sea sediments disturbed by mining activity: an application toward the development of experimental in vitro systems. Frontiers in Marine Science 6 (462): DOI 10.3389/fmars.2019.00462.
  • Gillard, B., Purkiani, K., Chatzievangelou, D., Vink, A., Iversen, M. and Thomsen, L. (2019). Physical and hydrodynamic properties of deep sea mining-generated, abyssal sediment plumes in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (eastern-central Pacific). Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 7. (1): 5. DOI 10.1525/elementa.343.