15 Nov 2018

CIIMAR studies the impact of deep-sea mining

The CIIMAR researchers developed numerical models that allow predicting scenarios of sediment dispersal resulting from mining activities in the deep sea and thus anticipate possible consequences on marine ecosystems. The study, developed on the project "CORAL - Sustainable Exploration of the Oceans", in a partnership between CIIMAR and INESC TEC, was published in the prestigious international journal Science of the Total Environment.


Miguel Santos, principal investigator in the CORAL project, says that "before starting to license mining activities in the deep sea, it is urgent to establish environmental and management guidelines that allow sustainable exploitation and impact minimization, and for that we need to develop tools"

According to Isabel Iglesias, Auxiliary Researcher at CIIMAR, "these numerical models allow us to understand and represent the oceanic dynamics of studied areas, and to predict scenarios of dispersion of different sedimentary particles resulting from mining activities, depending on the depth, geomorphology and hydrodynamics of the sites" .

Despite the great variability of the results due to the type of sediment, the morphology of the zone and the depth of the release of the sedimentary particles, the study now published concludes that the particles associated to possible mining activities in the studied areas can remain in motion for a period variable between 14 and 40 days and affect a large number of ecosystems within a radius of up to 190 km.

Regarding these results, the project leader, Luísa Bastos, emphasizes the importance of these numerical models as "fundamental tools to predict the possible impact of mining activities in the deep sea, to delimit ecosystem protection zones, to support the implementation of plans monitoring and risk assessment, and design of mitigation actions. "


CORAL is a collaborative project between CIIMAR and INESC TEC with several fronts. The "tools" research line, from which this study is based, focuses on the development of sensors and methodologies for assessing the effects of deep-sea mining.

The "CORAL - Sustainable Ocean Exploitation: Tools and Sensors" project is supported by the Northern Regional Operational Network of Portugal (NORTE2020) under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement through the European Regional Development Fund.