I’m writing a paper on the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and its requirements for mining contractors to assess the environmental impacts of their proposed exploration activities. These images are excerpts from Germany-Belgium-DEMEGroup’s (BGR) environmental impact statement for a proposed 2019 equipment test in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone. It’s essentially a big vacuum cleaner on caterpillar treads (Patania is a genus of moth) that sucks up polymetallic nodules and sends them ~4000m up to a ship where the rocks are separated from sediment (and sea critters like deep-sea corals and sea stars) before the waste is pumped back into the water column for disposal.
I’m fascinated by the entire deep seabed mining venture because everything about it is technology-mediated. Illustrations like this make it feel so sterile and controlled and modernist and make me wonder to what extent this flashy aesthetic draws attention away from the very real potential environmental/geopolitical consequences of vacuuming the bottom of the ocean. That’s not to say I’m anti-seabed mining; I truly don’t know where I stand here… But I am wary of discursive moves by private sector interests like DEME-GSR that feel like they leverage the public’s fascination with shiny techy gadgets to distract from potentially more critical issues.
GSR’s EIA available here. The group highlights their efforts to “build an environmental baseline” in this YouTube video.