Striving for independence from the import of Critical Raw Materials, the EU has been making considerable investments towards reaching marine mineral resources. Recent EU projects such as Blue Mining, Blue Nodules, MIDAS, VAMOS, as well as numerous national and international programmes on exploration and exploitation of seabed minerals enabled making considerable progress towards the establishment of European deep-sea mining industry, which has a potential of creating a hundreds-billion market and thousands of new jobs. The current knowledge about deep-sea mining and particularly about the impact of mining activities on the marine environment is quite diversified and often contradictory. This is not conducive to the acceptance of seabed mining by society due to the absence of a clear and holistic picture of seabed mining and its possible environmental footprint. The DSM-School project is aiming to become a platform for the elaboration and dissemination of knowledge in deep-sea mining to increase awareness of wider society on marine mineral resources, state-of-the-art mining technologies, recent investigations on the environmental impact of seabed mining activities, as well as economic, political, social and legislative aspects. The project brings together leading universities, research organizations, and industry professionals to reach the wider society by using different communication tools such as a two-week summer school organized in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, the Internet, and public events. The DSM-School project assumes to be turned into a long-term, self-sustainable and Europe-wide initiative for the dissemination of knowledge and boosting research and innovations.
Mining will not disappear in a circular economy due to the growing demand for raw materials driven by global trends, such as population growth and the rise of the global middle class. Moreover, a transition to a climate-friendly, low carbon economy (as targeted by the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015) will require a huge amount of raw materials, many of which are listed as critical ones for the European Union. Taking into account the fact that the European Union imports more than 3/4 of its critical raw materials, seabed minerals become an important strategic alternative for establishing a more diverse import market to secure domestic industries against market shocks and increased prices, which is one of the most important elements of Europe’s economic strategy. As envisioned in the EIT RawMaterials Strategic Agenda 2016-22 (FPA, Annex I), “mining must be strengthened in Europe including in the Arctic and from the seabed”. The strategic importance of raw materials from the sea, such as polymetallic nodules, seafloor polymetallic sulphides, cobalt-rich crusts, and others, increases constantly. Based on current knowledge, the content of critical metals in nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (the Pacific Ocean) is estimated to 9.4 Mt of Vanadium (V), 44 Mt of Cobalt (Co), 1.3 Mt of Tungsten (W), 0.46 Mt of Niobium (Nb), 0.18 Mt of Bismuth (Bi), 2 Mt of Yttrium (Y), and 0.003 Mt of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs). Cobalt crusts in the Prime Crust Zone (the Central Pacific) contain 4.8 Mt of V, 50 Mt of Co, 0.67 Mt of W, 0.4 Mt of Nb, 0.32 Mt of Bi, 1.7 Mt of Y, and 0.004 Mt of PGMs. For today, global economically recoverable reserves of these metals on land are estimated to 14 Mt of V, 7.5 Mt of Co, 3.1 Mt of W, 3 Mt of Nb, 0.3 Mt of Bi, 0.5 Mt of Y, and 0.07 Mt of PPMs. Besides of critical metals, recovery of many other metals and non-metals from marine minerals can contribute to strengthening the European industrial sector.
Deep-sea mining is still a new area of human activity, so knowledge in this field is limited. Establishment of the industry in Europe requires full utilization of the potential of industrial symbiosis to develop a range of innovative technologies, infrastructures, trade measures and policies. The demand for a new generation of skilled people entering the industry, universities, and research is therefore gradually increasing. In response to that need, in 2015 TU Bergakademie Freiberg initiated a one-week summer school on deep-sea mining. Since then, the summer school is carried out annually. After four years, more than 100 participants were trained and the number of people interested in participation is increasing annually. The DSM-School project aims at the development of the EIT International Summer School “From Dredging to Deep-Sea Mining” at a radically new level, which assumes increasing the duration of the event (to two weeks, enabling more in-depth training in particular subjects), promoting international cooperation (involvement of experts from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Norway), increasing networking and synergy between different stakeholders from education, research and industrial sectors, creation of new content meeting the needs of the raw materials sector, extending multidisciplinarity for radically new ways of thinking (including but not limited to creating entrepreneurial education approaches), the use of modern digital technologies for practical training (e.g. the real-time simulators of mining equipment). The school aims to become a leader in the elaboration and dissemination of knowledge in deep-sea mining, which is relevant to the needs of Europe’s industry.
1) Delivering the competency-driven and industry-related EIT International Summer School “From Dredging to Deep-Sea Mining” for Bachelor, Master, and PhD students (minimum 40 participants per annum).
2) Communication with stakeholders and end-users from mining, engineering and metallurgical sectors within the EU to study industry needs and to jointly adopt the teaching content of the summer school.
3) Creating a new collaborative network between key partners involved in deep-sea mining research and development, as well as industrial partners. Strengthening international relations between participants involved. This should contribute to the future successful collaboration between academic and research institutions as well as businesses and industry for developing new advanced technology solutions, R&D and up-scaling projects.
4) Increasing public awareness and interest in the exploitation of marine mineral resources through sharing the knowledge, information and expertise, making it available for wide society.
Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany (project coordinator)
Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria
Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany
IHC Mining B.V., the Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), the Netherlands
GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany (task partner)
Project Duration: 3 years (2020-2022)