Science Goals

Areas of interest

NE Atlantic studiesSW Atlantic studies

Science Goal 1: Assess the processes controlling the genesis of marine Fe-Mn deposits and their E-tech element composition

The objective of Work-packages 1, 2 and 3 are to characterise local-scale environmental variables and their influence on the formation and composition of Fe-Mn deposits and hence to ultimately develop predictive models for these deposits. This work addresses Science Goal 1 of the NERC Programme (E-tech element cycling) and forms the central component of our proposal. It is made possible by the opportunity to deploy robotic underwater vehicles and instruments that will enable the detailed studies required to make significant advances in the understanding of these systems and their E-tech element budgets.

Work package 1: Local-scale processes, seafloor morphology, sampling and primary data interpretation (UK lead: NOC)

Work package 2: Physical and chemical characterisation of crusts, development of a litho-,bio- and chemo-stratigraphic framework (BGS lead)

Work package 3: Assessment of the role of microbes in E-tech element concentration and cycling and implications for bioprocessing (NOC lead with USP)

Science Goal 2: Environmental impacts

Work package 4: Assessing the environmental impacts of Fe-Mn oxide deposit exploitation and E-Tech element extraction (Marine Ecological Surveys Ltd, SOPAC and HR Wallingford)

Work package 5: Low-carbon extraction of E-Tech element from Fe-Mn deposits (University of Bath lead)

Impact and outcomes: Engaging a collective multidisciplinary partnership to deliver the programme objectives

The project will engage stakeholders from across the marine resource sector from oceanographic and geological research to the mining engineering industry, to the offshore environmental sector and to intergovernmental bodies and policy makers. This multidisciplinary consortium is fully inter-linked to deliver fundamental science around the genesis of seafloor ferromanganese deposits, explore new low environmental impact technologies for E-tech element extraction, to assess the potential ecological impact of resource extraction and to feed this information back to policy makers, where it can inform and strengthen the science behind emerging regulatory frameworks.

The involvement of industry and intergovernmental bodies ensures the impact of the research programme reaches beyond academic beneficiaries and benefits wider society. To cement the effectiveness of this partnership, we will maintain meetings between partners, a joint summer school for all the PhD students in the NERC SoS Minerals programme (held at NOC), and dissemination of our findings at a major conference on deep-sea ferromanganese mineral deposits, that will be held in London at the Geological Society in the final year of the programme.

The planned summer school will provide an opportunity for PhD students to work on the new datasets generated by the project, which will underpin a series of expert lectures, practical exercises and a fieldwork component designed to deliver training in the skills areas most desired by the environmental sciences sector. As an illustration students will develop a GIS-based prospectivity model using a range of spatial data layers, and providing experience in modelling, data management, numeracy, and assessment of risk and uncertainty. The fieldwork will involve a simple offshore data acquisition exercise, providing experience in planning a small survey, collection of a statistically valid dataset and marine surveying. We will also propose a special meeting of the Deep-sea Mining Institute, through the executive offices of InterRidge.

Project Organisation