Centre for Deep Sea Research

Eco-Safe Ridge Mining project

A competence building project led by Pedro Ribeiro, a researcher at the Centre for Deep-Sea Research of the University of Bergen, will investigate if deep-sea mining on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge can take place responsibly, avoiding serious harm to the environment.

black smoker
Black smoker chimneys at the Fåvne hydrothermal vent field, Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge.
Center for Deep Sea Research, University of Bergen

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The Norwegian government has initiated a process to open areas of its extended continental shelf to mineral exploration and exploitation, but also determined that the potential environmental impacts must be known before mining licenses can be issued. These impacts are difficult to predict without thorough knowledge of the structure, and functions of deep-sea ecosystems.

Addressing key scientific questions

The Eco-Safe Ridge Mining research project aims to fill key knowledge gaps, assess environmental risks and identify appropriate mitigation actions regarding deep-sea mining. The study area is the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge, where seafloor massive sulphide deposits containing strategic metals co-occur with vulnerable habitats such as hydrothermal vents and sponge grounds. A better understanding of deep-sea ecosystems associated with seabed mineral deposits is crucial and timely to inform policy and management decisions.

To advance our understanding of the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge ecosystems and their response to disturbance, the project will collect baseline environmental data on different seabed habitats and characterize their natural state. Additional studies will determine how populations of organisms living at different sites are interconnected, enabling predictions about their ability to persist and recover from disturbance. Possible environmental effects of mining plumes and tolerance thresholds of seabed biota will be investigated through modeling as well as laboratory and field experiments. In addition to targeting specific knowledge gaps related to mining, the project will promote scientific exploration of Arctic deep-sea ecosystems and provide training and education opportunities to young scientists.

Basis for environmental management

Eco-Safe Ridge Mining employs an ecological risk assessment framework, making its scientific outputs relevant to environmental management of deep-sea mining. The partnership between the academia and the industry will enable development of mining technology and procedures with a minimal environmental footprint. Norwegian authorities will be informed about the results of the project on a regular basis so that decision making regarding exploration and exploitation of the areas under Norwegian jurisdiction is based on best available knowledge.

About Eco-Safe Ridge Mining

Eco-Safe Ridge Mining is a three-year competence building project coordinated by the University of Bergen. The total budget is about 18 million NOK, where more than 13 million are granted by the Research Council of Norway.

The project partners are the University of Bergen, NORCE, the University of Stavanger, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Equinor, GCE Ocean Technology, Norwegian oil and gas association, Loke Marine Minerals, Adepth Minerals and Aanderaa Data Instruments.

Homepage: https://ecosafe.w.uib.no

Contact: Dr. Pedro Ribeiro (deep-sea ecologist and project leader).