Blue Atlantis will establish the world’s only deep-sea mining test facility, covering RTD, mining tests, standards development and market access support. The consortium has 45 partners from 8 European countries along the entire value chain. Deep-sea mining has gone from a distant possibility to a likely reality within just a decade. There is a growing imperative for a better defined EU policy in this area. There are three good reasons why a deep-sea mining test in Europe would be important. First, securing raw materials for European industry, which depends on importing most strategic and critical metals, including: Co, Cu, Ga, Nb, Pt group metals, Ti, W, Zn, Au, Ag and Rare Earths. Second, Europe’s leadership in advanced deep-sea technologies will be further enhanced on a global scale. Third, new education, skills and knowledge will be offered by universities and research centers.
The seafloor around the Azores Archipelago provides an ideal location as a deep-sea mining test facility in European waters. Analyses show that the Mid‐Atlantic ridge system near the Azores hosts seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) deposits. South of the Azores, between 36ºN and 40ºN, there are four known fields of hydrothermally active vents within the actual Portuguese EEZ on the Mid‐Atlantic Ridge. Furthermore, there are manganese nodules and cobalt-rich crusts to be found within the Portuguese EEZ and extended continental shelf, which may be an additional source for deep-sea minerals. Blue Atlantis partners cover the entire deep-sea mining value chain with the following unique selling propositions:
• Strategic European leadership
• Strong industry partners with comprehensive marine mineral resource expertise
• Strong innovation-orientation combining the technical, scientific, and logistic resources of major universities and marine RTD institutions.
• Strong backing of national governments
• Strong environmental credentials. Only non-active SMS-sites will be considered for the mining test
• Expertise in risk assessment and standards development
Work Packages for a large‐scale European Marine Mining Pilot Project:
1. Project management (Portuguese and German co-coordinators)
2. MetOcean studies
3. Environmental monitoring and assessment, incl. new technologies and early warning capacities during exploration, mining, and post-mining activities.
4. Exploration activities, especially of relevant non-active mining sites. Tools will include submersibles (AUV and ROV), high definition geophysical tools, thematic mapping, mineralogy and geochemistry as well as core drilling (e.g. with MeBo and Rockdrill).
5. Mining equipment development, including R&D projects and design activities related to:
• Mining tools incl. shallow water tests
• Intelligent detection supported by ROVs andAUVs
• Buffer incl. SMS storage and flexible pipe/tube
• Airlift- and/or slurry pump systems
• Riser concept incl. tailing dumping pipe (design, dimension, material)
• Energy supply
• Underwater communication
• Design and concept for surface vessel and/or floating structure
• Tailing processing unit onboard surface vessel, incl. in recirculation in greater depths
• Systems control and monitoring center
• Test on land (LAB)
6. Evaluation of the R&D preparation projects
• Main mining components and tools
• Modification and realisation of selected components and tools
7. Mining test preparation
8. Mining support and production vessel preparation
9. Mining test operation
10. Processing concepts and technologies for marine mineral resources
11. Standards and risk assessment Deep-sea mining is dependent on new technologies and processes developed in a highly competitive world market. For this reason, the test facility will be complemented by the systematic development of standards (e.g. environmental, safety, technology, etc.) as well as a comprehensive risk assessment analysis of all aspects of deep-sea mining and technology deployment.
12. Education and Training Programmes
13. Dialogue with Stakeholders, including with:
• regulators (e.g. government agencies) tasked with such issues environmental, safety and other agencies)
• policy makers from environmental, trade and resources areas
• industry regarding the strategic interests of European industry), and
• NGOs and societal groups on issues related to public perception and acceptance.
A specific Working Group will be set-up to liaise with local governments in Portugal and the EU Institutions.
Blue Atlantis will cement Europe’s expertise for the whole deep-sea mining added value chain. With respect to the existing SMS-deposits in the EEZ of the Azores, the aim is to create marine mining test structures which are strongly linked to the proposed work packages. In addition to the mining test structure, the consortium proposes the preparation and implementation of a conceptual study for large scale facilities for deep-sea mining.
In cooperation with industry, research and government communities, all relevant aspects of the value chain should be addressed in a pilot mining operation. Blue Atlantis will cover inter alia the following key areas:
• geophysical exploration using new or modified tools and technologies
• Development of robotic tools for mineral exploration
• geological, mineralogical and geochemical evaluation, site selection and resource definition by drilling
• environmental and biological characterisation, baseline collection and monitoring
• development and testing of seafloor mining tools, lift and riser system
• development and testing of robotic tools to support monitoring, infrastructure maintenance and sustainable mining operations
• design studies of mining support and production vessel (MSV)
• „at sea“ pretreatment of ore, transportation issues, port facilities
• financing, economic models, and market impact
• preparation of UNCLOS implementation under national legislation
• legal requirements and fiscal impact
• public outreach and public awareness/ acceptance
The Consortium covers 45 partners from 8 European countries. These partners will be involved in 13 work packages:
1. Project management (3 partners)
2. MetOcean studies (7 partners)
3. Environmental monitoring and assessment (26 partners)
4. Exploration activities for SMS in the EEZ of the Azores (30 partners)
5. Mining Equipment Development (25 partners)
6. Evaluation of the R&D projects (18 partners)
7. Preparation of the mining test (17 partners)
8. Preparation of the mining support and production vessel (9 partners)
9. Mining test operation (19 partners)
10. Processing concepts and technologies (10 partners)
11. Standards and risk (8 partners)
12. Education and Training Programmes (15 partners)
13. Dialogue with Stakeholders (9 partners)
The consortium has strong links to the recent European FP7 R&D projects MIDAS (Ref.: 603418) and Blue Mining (Ref.: 604500)
The coordinators will integrate and harmonise the work package involvement of the different partners to minimize duplication of work and efforts for the future Proposal. Additionally to the general coordination tasks (finances, mile stones and deliverables, controlling, reporting, etc.) the coordinators will be partly involved in WPs 2, 3, 6, 7, 9 and 13). The coordinators cover the entire spectrum of the skills needed to coordinate such a comprehensive project.