"In 2018, the first deep seabed mining will begin production in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. The project a Solwara I, is to be executed by Nautilus Minerals, which has been granted the lease to mine the deep sea for metals. Nautilus holds approximately 450,000 sq km of exploration acreage in the western Pacific, covering Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, as well as international waters in the eastern Pacific (The Telegraph, 2014). Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), which has been developing technologies for the subsea oil and gas sector since the 1980s, will be providing vehicles to be used for the mine. The Solwara I is aimed at mining seafloor massive sulfides (SMS). Seabed SMS deposits contain high grade copper, gold, silver, zinc and other trace metals. The nodule mining machinesâ€”each of which weighs about 250 tonnes, will extract the ore through cutting, and then deliver it to a huge subsea pump that brings it to the surface. The operation of the machines is directed from a control centre on the vessel, where pilots and co-pilots monitor each vehicle using sonar and camera images (ibid).
The limited opportunities to mine for minerals on land is making the world consider deep seabed mining as an alternative. But this can pose major destruction to marine biodiversity, given our limited knowledge of the effects of disturbing the high seas, especially in oxygen-minimum zones.