A seabed mining robot that was being tested on the Pacific Ocean floor at a depth of more than 4km has become detached, Belgium-based Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) said on Wednesday April 28th.
GSR is the deep-sea exploratory division of dredging company DEME Group. Since April 20th it had been testing the Patania II, a 25-tonne mining robot prototype, in its concession in the Clarion Clipperton Zone.
The machine has been built to collect small pieces of rock rich in cobalt and other battery metals that are common on the seabed in this area. It was connected to GSR’s ship via a 5km cable.
A GSR spokesman said that “on its final dive in the GSR area, a lifting point separated and Patania II now stands on the seafloor. An operation to reconnect the lifting point begins this evening and we will provide an update in due course.”
Several companies and countries have seabed exploration contracts, but the regulations governing deep-sea mining have not yet been finalized by UN body the International Seabed Authority.
Several major companies, including Google, BMW, AB Volvo, and Samsung SDI, have backed a call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining. GSR said that the company had not lost control of Patania II, and that projects like this always had challenges to contend with. GSR has said that it would only apply for a mining contract if the science showed that deep seabed minerals had advantages, from an environmental and social perspective, over relying solely on land mining