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Advancements in Deep-Sea Mineral Exploration and Legal Aspects of Deep-Sea Mining

The presentation provides an overview of BGR's deep-sea mineral resource exploration and informs on recent developments in deep-sea mining. Metals such as copper, nickel and cobalt play a vital role in the production of regenerative energies and high-tech electronic products. Currently, these metals are solely extracted from land sources, but increasing global demand has spurred interest in deep-sea deposits located in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Polymetallic nodules, cobalt-rich manganese crusts and massive sulphides found at water depths of 1 to 5 kilometers are seen as potential sources of such raw materials. Germany, as an industrial country with high raw material demands, heavily relies on metal imports. As a potential measure to reduce dependence and secure supply, Germany has invested actively in the exploration of marine mineral deposits and their environment in the eastern Pacific and southwestern Indian Ocean during the last two decades. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is currently negotiating regulations for the mining of these resources (“Mining Code”). At the moment, the focus is on adopting regulations for polymetallic nodule mining, possibly by 2024. However, companies could potentially already submit mining applications today, to be considered by the Council despite the absence of a full set of binding regulations. Significant progress has recently been made in overcoming the technical challenges of mining the deep sea. Several contractors have successfully tested mining systems and are currently monitoring the resultant impacts on the environment and the biodiversity.


Carsten Rühlemann1, Annemiek Vink1, Thomas Kuhn1
1Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023