John Jamieson: The Geo-Environmental Implications of Deep Sea Mining

Microbiology & Geomicrobiology Seminar Series

2017.09.22 | Maj Thimm Carlsen

Date Fri 06 Oct
Time 11:00 12:00
Location 1540-116

Speaker: Dr. John Jamieson, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

Title: The Geo-Environmental Implications of Deep Sea Mining

Abstract:  Seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits, which form at high-temperature “black smoker” hydrothermal vents, are being targeted for future mining due to their potential economic value.  Currently, activities are restricted to exploration, and no commercial deep sea mining has yet taken place, although the first deep-sea mine, the Solwara 1 project, is scheduled to begin operations off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 2019.  Although much of the focus of commercial and research activities associated with SMS deposits has been on active vents, which support unique chemotrophic-based ecosystems, it is the old, extinct SMS deposits, which are much harder to find, that may be the more economically viable, and least environmentally-destructive, target for mining.  However, fundamental questions relating to the fate of extinct SMS deposits remain, including the rate of sulfide oxidation, and the role that microbes may play in this process.  In this talk, I will present the current state of our understanding of the geology and ecology of both active deep sea hydrothermal vents, which support unique chemotrophic-based ecosystems, and extinct deposits, for which we have very little information.  I will discuss how and where SMS deposits form, the fate of extinct deposits over time due to (bio)oxidation, and the environmental implications of mining these deposits.

Center for Geomicrobiology