Early this month, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) and subsea services company Swire Seabed commenced a project to collect data on sulphide mineral deposits in the Norwegian Sea.
The campaign is part of an NPD programme that aims to locate possible deep sea mineral resources in the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Mapping will be carried out using a Kongsberg Hugin autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which is equipped to collect synthetic aperture sonar data, multibeam bathymetric data and spontaneous potential data.
After the information is processed onboard Swire’s support vessel, Seabed Worker, samples will be taken from areas where the data shows the presence of minerals. Sampling will be carried out using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can be lowered down to the seabed.
The project site is located along the central rift valley of the Mohns Ridge, about halfway between Norway and Greenland, with an operational depth of approximately 2,000 to 3,300 metres. Previous studies have indicated that significant quantities of copper, gold, silver and zinc are present in the region’s sulphide deposits.
However, the idea of extracting minerals from the seabed has drawn widespread criticism from scientists and environmentalists. Earlier this year, a study by Greenpeace and the University of Exeter warned that seabed mining activities could have “long-lasting and unforeseen consequences” for marine life.
The process of seabed mining would most likely involve extracting minerals just below the sea floor, rather than digging to great depths. The Norwegian mapping expedition will run throughout August and into September.