Mining contractors will be keen to know the results of a scientific expedition that has been launched from the UK to explore the possible potential of mining precious and rare metal deposits from the deep ocean floor.
RSS James Cook, a British research vessel, has set sail from Southampton and is making its way to an underwater ridge located in the middle of the Atlantic. The region is subject to frequent volcanic activity that drives hot springs.
National Oceanography Centre expedition leader Bramley Murton stated that volcanic activity is responsible for leaving behind mounds of metal deposits on the seabed. He claims that the size of the area is similar to that of a big football stadium.
Murton went on to explain that the aim of the expedition is to figure out whether the mounds can become a viable source of rare metals in the future in terms of economics as well as environmental sustainability.
Precious and rare metals are extremely important in modern society. They are used in smartphones, aircraft and even green energy. However, China has the monopoly as it owns a majority of the sources.
The UK expedition believes that deep sea mining for resources could transform the global market. The scientists aboard RSS James Cook will be using a giant metal detector, drills and scanners to get the information they seek.
Another company from the UK was awarded a licence from the International Seabed Authority in March 2016 to prospect for precious metals in 75,000 sq km of the Pacific.
Concerns have been raised about how deep sea mining can harm the delicate ecosystems and marine life that thrive on hot springs. However, the UK expedition will be focusing primarily on extinct hydrothermal vents that are no longer functional and are therefore not home to the unique ecosystems.