There have been considerable developments in the exploration for deep-sea minerals in recent years both within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of individual nations and in ‘the Area’. Exploration licences in the Area have more than tripled since 2010. A number of mining sites within EEZs are likely to be operational by 2019.
The environmental management of mining is a major challenge, particularly with the development of test and pilot mining. While the issues of physical disturbance, operational plumes and discharge tailings plumes are common to all mining activities, the different environmental settings of polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt crusts raises management problems specific to each resource. Environmental planning will be very different for abyssal sediments, seamounts and mid ocean ridges, the latter both at active hydrothermal vents and at non-active localities. DSES has wide experience of all these environments.
Deep Seas Environmental Solutions Ltd. has played a leading role in the ISA Legal and Technical Commission generating recommendations for the guidance of contractors to the ISA on environmental baseline studies for polymetallic nodules, massive sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts, identifying the major baseline data required for a convincing EIA. In addition, recognizing that natural remediation will be a major element of polymetallic nodule mining, DSES has promoted spatial management in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean through the adoption of APEIs (Areas of Particular Environmental Interest) http://www.isa.org.jm/files/documents/EN/18Sess/Council/ISBA-18C-22.pdf.