A mining robot at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at a depth of more than 4 km (13.000 feet) has come loose from the cable, the Belgian testing company reports.
Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR), the exploration division of the DEME Group dredging company, is testing Patania II. It is a 25-ton prototype mining robot, in its dealership in the Clarion Clipperton area since April 20.
The machine aims to collect potato-sized nodules rich in cobalt and other metals crucial for battery, which dot the seabed in this area. It is connected to the GSR ship with a 5km cable.
"During its last dive in the GSR area, Patania II separated and is now on the seabed," writes a company spokesperson in an e-mailed statement. "The operation to reconnect the miner robot begins this evening and we will provide an update in due course."
Not a good start
GSR tests are monitored by independent scientists from 29 European institutes. They will analyze data and samples collected by the mining robot to measure the impact of the mining on the seafloor.
Although several companies and countries have seabed exploration contracts, regulations governing deep-sea mining have not yet been finalized by the International Seabed Authority, the United Nations body that has the power to grant these licenses.
Robot miner and excavations in the depths of the sea: the doubts are many
Critics, including the environmentalist David Attenborough, claim that the extraction of the seabed has an unpredictable environmental impact. Google, BMW, Volvo e Samsung they supported the call for a moratorium on deep-sea mining.
The doctor Sandra Schoettner, a Greenpeace biologist, said: "The loss of control of a 25-ton mining machine at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean should leave the idea of digging in the deep sea forever."
A GSR spokesperson denies that the company has lost control of the Patania II mining robot and says projects like this always have challenges to tackle.
The Belgian company says which will require a mining contract only if science shows that seabed minerals have benefits. Advantages from an environmental and social point of view, I mean, compared to relying only on terrestrial extraction.