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The Armor of the Iron Snail

Throughout the animal kingdom, evolution has devised myriad ways for organisms to protect themselves from predators, competitors, and their environment. The advent of hard, biomineralized shells — shells formed from minerals extracted from the environment and reconstituted through biological — is a major development in the evolution of life on earth.  Most biomineralization comes in […]

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A 3-decade-long disturbance study on the deep abyssal plain.

In the late 1980s, as the first wave of deep-sea mining exploration approached a decade of hibernation, researchers launched an ambitious experiment to understand the long-term environmental impact of harvesting polymetallic nodules from the abyssal plain. The Disturbance and recolonization experiment in a manganese nodule area of the deep South Pacific (DISCOL) remains the most […]

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The deep-sea mining community adapts to the new normal under coronavirus restrictions.

Maria Bolevich for DSM Observer The coronavirus pandemic is changing the world in dramatic and subtle ways, exacting a toll measured both in lost lives and economic uncertainty. Deep-sea mining has been in development for over 50 years and now, at the moment in which negotiations were poised to transition the industry from exploration to […]

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The Great Deep Ocean Migration

In the early days of exploration, the deep-sea was thought to be largely devoid of life, a vast empty plain of mud wrapped around the world, too deep for living organisms to survive. But the more humans explore, the more life we discover in increasingly unexpected places, from the boiling water of hydrothermal vents, to […]

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What do people talk about when they talk about Deep-sea Mining?

While negotiations rage within the halls of the International Seabed Authority over the draft mining code, the operationalization of the enterprise, and the development of the financial model, a second conversation is happening, distributed across the internet and engaging an entirely different cohort of stakeholders. Deep-sea mining attracts a passionate collection of activists, technologists, policy […]

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A Primer on Polymetallic Nodule Fields

Scattered across the abyssal plain at depths from 4000 to 6500 meters, polymetallic nodules are the most abundant and broadly distributed of the three major ore types currently being pursued by deep-sea mining companies. Originally referred to as manganese nodules, this small, potato-sized accretions on the seafloor were first discovered during the Challenger Expedition in […]

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Barnacles attached to hydrothermal vent spires feeding at Kawio Barat. Critics of the Solwara 1 project raised concerns about its potential impact on the ecosystems that center on hydrothermal vents. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010

A Primer on Seafloor Massive Sulphides

Formed at the margins where tectonic plates collide or diverge, seafloor massive sulphides are the most geologically active and among the most metal-rich deep-sea deposits. Only discovered in 1977 (though there were some tantalizing near misses several decades earlier), exploration on these prospects is relatively immature compared to formations like polymetallic nodule fields, which have […]

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