Treasures under the sea: deepsea mining developments

PIES in float. Credit: Sonardyne

Advances in deepsea mining and the need for more accurate navigational data push the development of hydrographic instruments

Humans have more thoroughly investigated the surface of Mars than the Earth’s seabed. This may be about to become an unexpected frontier in new explorations, thanks to maritime’s next big growth industry – seabed mining.

Under the sea, there are rich concentrations of the rare metals needed for making batteries, solar panels, and the advanced magnets used in wind turbines. Currently, the segment is still waiting on the United Nations to define a set of laws governing undersea mining activity. Such regulation will likely not be realised until end-2020 at the earliest, but analysts are still banking on the endeavour to be profitable by the middle of the decade.

Cobalt, a rare metal in short supply today, is currently valued at USD60,000 per tonne, and is thought to be plentiful, along with copper, nickel, and manganese, in the Clarion-Clipperton zone (CCZ), an abyssal plain in the Pacific Ocean about 1,500 km off the coast of Mexico. Meanwhile, Transparency Market Research calculated seabed mining could be worth as much as USD7 billion by 2026.

This is an excerpt of the DPC June edition. To have access to the full article, and more DPC articles, please subscribe here.