Thermal vent smoke-filtering

Deep sea mining is expected to grow 37% annually, from $650mn in 2020 to $15.3bn by 2030.[1] Hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor are chimney-like structures where underwater volcanoes release magma and valuable minerals into the ocean above in the form of a “smoke,” offering an inexhaustible supply of metals, including minerals for batteries, important for the transformation to a green economy.[2,3]

Oil and gas extraction activities off the coast of Norway provide initial infrastructure and competencies that can be leveraged and transferred to the nearby underwater volcanic mountain range.[4]

Environmental concerns about deep sea (strip) mining has led to a memorandum on seabed mining and the publication of a mining code of conduct by the International Seabed Authority.[5,6] Filtering techniques are expected to levy minimal environmental impact; more challenging is the separation of metal out of the smoke at the source 7km deep, and getting it to a surface platform.[5]

When will filtering deep sea thermal vents for precious metals become an accepted practice?

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[1] BCC Research (2019), Deep Sea Mining Technologies, Equipment and Mineral Targets
[2] O'Kruk, A. (2019), The new frontier: deep-sea mining
[3] Budgen, P. (2017), Hydrothermal vent mining, Japan experiments the new frontier threatening our oceans
[4] Norway Technology (2019), Norwegian Scientists Have Found an Area with Metals Worth Billions
[5] Hoekstra, C. (2019), Deepsea Mineral Extraction
[6] Davis, N. (2014), Icing Impacts on Wind Energy Production. DTU Wind Energy.
More information:
Henriques, M. (2019), Japan’s grand plans to mine deep-sea vents
Kreim, B. (2015), We Are About to Start Mining Hydrothermal Vents on the Ocean Floor
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2019), Seafloor Mining
National Geographic (2013), Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents
Cobley, A. (2019), Deep-sea mining: regulating the unknown
Hoagland, P. et al. (2015), Precious Metals from Deep-Sea Vents
Coates, A. (2017), Deep sea: Potential threats to Earth's 'final frontier' are growing
Biro, P. (2015, Questions and Answers about Hydrothermal Vents
Viders, H. (2011), Hydrothermal Vents
Beaulieu, S. E. et al. (2013), An authoritative global database for active submarine hydrothermal vent fields
The Maritime Executive (2020), The Future of Deep Seabed Mining
Vidal, O., Arndt, N. (2013), Metals and minerals will be the next finite resource shortfall


By Matthew J. Spaniol