Deep Sea Mining

Recent MPI Publications on DSM:

Roche C, Feenan J (2013) Drivers for the Development of Deep Sea Minerals in the Pacific. In SPC (2013). Deep Sea Minerals: Deep Sea Minerals and the Green Economy. Baker, E., and Beaudoin, Y. (Eds.) Vol. 2, pp. 25-40 Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji.

Abstract: The focus of this chapter is the primary drivers of deep sea mining in the Pacific, with a shorter discussion on secondary drivers and the restrictive forces operating in the region (Table 1). Inves- tigating these drivers provides an objective framework for improved understanding of the forces behind the industry, leading to better decision making. This investigation, like the industry, is in its infancy. Further work is required to better inform Pacific Island states of the factors influencing the future of the industry.

Roche C, Bice S (2013) Anticipating Social and Community Impacts of Deep Sea Mining. In SPC (2013). Deep Sea Minerals: Deep Sea Minerals and the Green Economy. Baker, E., and Beaudoin, Y. (Eds.) Vol. 2, pp. 59-80 Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji.

Abstract: Other chapters in this volume demonstrate that the mineral extraction potential of deep sea min- ing could be enormous, that economic opportunities are driving Pacific Island states’ exploration of deep sea mining, and that deep sea mining – if approached from a holistic environmental perspective – might offer Pacific Island states economic means of achieving development goals. But what of the social and community impacts of deep sea mining? How might communities be affected or societies changed when the most socially disruptive aspects of mining shift offshore? How can such impacts be predicted, measured, and monitored? And will communities be able to register complaints successfully, exercise decision-making authority, or grant a social licence to operate to an industry operating not in their backyards, but in their equally prized and culturally important seas?

DSM Overview:

Little is know about the oceans that cover 70% of the earths surface and even less is known about the deep sea.

For many years scientists, fishermen and conservationists have been aware of the damage that fishing is doing to the ocean floor. Now there is a new threat to our oceans. After 50 years of talk, deep sea mining is coming and it is going to start in the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea.

Billions of dollars have been spent to make this new industry a reality, but it has been spent exploring for mineable deposits – with relatively little invested in understanding the deep sea.

Deep sea mining is set to commence long before we understand much about the mineral rich vents and the communities that thrive in the unique environment. Let alone understand the impacts that exploration and mining have on sensitive and ancient marine environments.

Similarly, social impacts have been ignored. Local people, such as the Djual Islanders are concerned about the impacts of such activities on the marine environment and their subsistence lifestyles. Unfortunately neither the PNG Government or the proponent are there to here their concerns.

The Mineral Policy Institute is proposing an international forum to assist in the evaluation and monitoring of any potential impacts. Proponents and developed countries [where the mining companies reside] need to support and fund a transparent process to assisting developing countries monitor and regulate and marine mining.


This page is very much a work in progress, much of the information about deep sea mining is hidden away in corporate documents, copyrighted academic articles and grey literature. Hopefully over time we can make more available here – if you have information you can share please contact the editor

Below are a number of links, pages, images, videos divided into sections or click on the deep sea mining tag for news posts.

Introduction to the Deep Sea

This video from David Attenborough gives an insight into similar ecosystems in our oceans.

The sea floor – hydrothermal vents

This image, borrowed from ChEss illustrates  known vent locations.


Hydrothermal Vents global seafloor information

Indo australian Tectonic Plate

A closer look at the vents in the Pacific where much of the exploration activity is currently underway. Image borrowed from Going for Gold – available below

Deep Sea Mining – Codes

IMMS Code of Marine Mining 2002
A basic code of mining that needs ethical companies and effective legislation and monitoring by Governments to work. This might be ok if DSM mining was starting in Sydney Harbour under the watchful of a nation capable of assessing impacts. Unfortunately DSM will start off the coast of New Ireland, far from scrutiny and under the ‘control’ of the PNG Government who continue to oversee the terrestrial mining disasters of Ok Tedi and Porgera etc…

Medang Guidelines 1999
A pro mining and older document on principles to facilitate and monitor the impacts of marine mining.

Deep Sea Mining – Concerns

Precationary Management of Deep Sea Mining a great article by Jochen Halfar

Deep Sea Mining – Proponents

An interview with Dr Michael Wiedecke of the German Geological Survey about the future of mining manganese nodules in the deep sea.

[dailymotion id=x9zjko]

2008 Update on Nautilis Mining CR McClain asks questions about Nautilis

Going_for_Gold_pdf_final I strongly pro-mining but nevertheless good explanation of vents, sealfloor massive sulphides [SMS] and issues about deep sea mining.

Deep Sea Mining – Papua New Guinea

PNG Tectonic Plate
Here is were much of the Pacific activity is taking place. Solwara I is Nautilis’s proposed, and almost approved mine.

Compare diagram above to the image of the Nautilis’s Bismarck Tenements below. Image borrowed from Going for Gold – available above

Dyual Island - Deep Sea Mining Tenements

Djual island is adjacent to current exploration activity and planned mines, Solwara 2,3 and 10. Image adapted from Nautilis

This is a good background document with an analysis of many DSM issues in PNG. Unfortunately it is underpinned by an assumption that by economic growth flows to people in need. Anyone who went to the Mining Wardens court on April 2nd [see Syble's conclusion] would certainly have grounds for concern. If you are interested in DSM anywhere you should read this.

Deep Sea Mining – PNG deep sea mining will start in PNG