MIDAS project draws to a close
After 3 years of intensive research into identifying and understanding the environmental impacts of deep-sea resource exploitation, the MIDAS project has drawn to a close. Coordinated by Seascape and involving 32 partner institutions from academia, industry and the NGO sector, MIDAS covered a wide array of research aimed at helping the nascent deep-sea mining industry, regulators and civil society to understand the potential impacts of mining on deep-sea ecosystems.
The project focused mainly on the potential impacts associated with extraction of manganese nodules and seafloor massive sulphides (SMS) from the deep sea, but also addressed environmental issues related to the exploitation of methane gas hydrates, and the potential of deep-sea muds in the North Atlantic as a source of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). Study areas included the mid-Atlantic Ridge (SMS), the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the central Pacific (nodules), and the Black Sea, Norwegian and Svalbard continental margins (gas hydrates). Additionally, the Canary Islands, Palinuro Seamount (central Mediterranean), Norwegian fjords and Portmán Bay (Spain) were used as proxy sites for various mining impact experiments. Large volumes of new data were collected via 30 research expeditions to these areas to satisfy a range of scientific questions.
MIDAS included much more than scientific research. Industry partners provided links to the commercial sector to provide information on likely mining scenarios, and to enable the determination of best practice in other sectors of offshore exploitation. The combination of new scientific data with projected mining scenarios and accepted best practice has enabled MIDAS to put forward an environmental management framework that could facilitate responsible mining whilst taking account of environmental concerns. MIDAS also identified the technology that might offer the most value in monitoring the impacts of deep-sea mining, including technology gaps where existing instrumentation requires further development.
A social dimension was incorporated through close engagement with civil society, providing them with accurate information and listening to their concerns about this emerging industry. MIDAS focused on developing practical, workable solutions with due regard of the legal aspects and worked closely with the International Seabed Authority to provide scientific input to the development of a mining code for the exploitation of deep-sea minerals. This process will continue well beyond the lifetime of MIDAS, but it will benefit from this new knowledge as well as a gap analysis of information that is of high importance but not currently available.
The MIDAS Research Highlights publication, available to download from the MIDAS website, contains summary of the project’s key achievements and is available to download from the MIDAS website at www.eu-midas.net.
The MIDAS project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 603418.