Mining in the spotlight: Deep sea mining

Video | February 2020 | 04:02

Video Details

Mining in the spotlight: Deep sea mining

Hello, my name is Eleanor Martin and I am here today to talk about Deep Sea Mining.

Deep Sea Mining is essentially taking the minerals from underneath the sea.

Now these are scattered on the sea bed in the case of polymetallic nodules, some of them are formed as part of crusts on the sea floor and some of them have been formed by plumes from volcanos that have exploded underneath the sea and these nodules or crusts or forms of metals are precious metals, often rare earths, which are formed together and melded together so probably the most advanced form of Deep Sea Mining relates to polymetallic nodules and these are small potato sized chunks of metals which can be smelted down and used for their different commodities depending on where the markets are.

So we are at the point where a lot of people are going and having a little look, they’re going to explore and see what’s down there, but we are waiting at the moment for the UN to publish the regulations for exploitation and that will be the key to unlocking the monetisation of Deep Sea Mining for the future. Now those regulations have been published in several iterations and they’ve welcomed peoples’ views from stakeholders through to governments through to MGO’s and environmental activities.

They’ve taken all those into consideration and then they’ve published their next iteration and there is a meeting which is the United Nation’s meeting in Jamaica in a month or so when people will really decide what those exploitation regulations look like and people can get on with really monetising what’s down there.

So many people will be aware of the Nautilus Mineral story, they were Deep Sea Mining off the coast of Papa New Guinea and it didn’t go well for a number of different reasons, but what I’m most interested in is real Deep Sea Mining which is basically in the area of the sea which nobody owns.

So the Pacific Ocean is a real hotbed of polymetallic nodules and there are a number of companies that are really looking at these and because it is essentially in part of the sea which is not close to any coast line the UN are the international sea bed authority, essentially regulates what happens in that area, so for me the most interesting area at the moment is in the CCZ which is off the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii.

If you look at the licences that have been issued for exploration, obviously we’re not yet there for exploitation, it’s governments around the world, a number of governments are looking to secure resources, China is a real key player, there are some EU consortia that have been set up in order to re develop the technology to Deep Sea Mining and then there are private companies, so Lockheed Martin, through its UK subsidiary, UK sea bed resources has a licence as do several other companies which have been set up purely for this.

One of the real drivers of Deep Sea Mining at this point where if we can get the regulations in place I really see this taking off is because actually a number of the minerals and commodities that are found under the Ocean as essential to our environmentally sustainable economy, so for example – cobalt which is key to making batteries, which is going to be essential for electric cars and tellurium which is used for wind turbines and solar panels, so actually securing these resources by private companies and by governments can really assist with the environmental change that we think is coming.

Welcome to our new Mining in the spotlight series. With insights and commentary from across our global mining group, the series will explore some of the hot topics that we see as being important for our clients in the mining sector.

This episode features Eleanor Martin, a partner in our London banking and finance team, discussing the current state of the Deep Sea Mining space and the potential changes and opportunities which could arise in 2020 and beyond.