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Deep-sea mining machine stuck at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean

The deep-sea mining machine, weighing 25 tonnes, became stuck at a depth of around 4m due to a fault. The prototype was just undergoing tests in the waters of the Pacific Ocean when a cable broke. The state-of-the-art unmanned mining robot Patania II was just in the process of operational testing. At some point, the
Published: April 30, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:27
Deep-sea mining machine stuck at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean

The deep-sea mining machine, weighing 25 tonnes, became stuck at a depth of around 4m due to a fault. The prototype was just undergoing tests in the waters of the Pacific Ocean when a cable broke.

The state-of-the-art unmanned mining robot Patania II was just in the process of operational testing. At some point, the cable connecting it to the vessel on the surface broke off. As a result of the failure, the machine became stuck at a depth of approximately 4 km underwater.

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Deep-sea mining machine stuck at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean
View from Patania II during testing photo GSR / News footage via REUTERS

The prototype deep-sea mining machine is the latest creation of Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR). It is a division of deep-sea exploration company DEME Group. The machine is ultimately intended to be used to collect small rocks at the bottom of the ocean. All because so-called polymetallic nodules are rich in cobalt and other valuable metals.

In a media release, GSR reports, among other things, that the raw materials obtained in this way are used to create batteries and accumulators and are essential for the production of electronics and, for example, smartphones.

polymetallic nodules collected by the deep-mining machine Patania II
Rocks called polymetallic nodules that Patania II collects photo GSR / News footage via REUTERS
This is just the beginning

Patania II was almost finished first phase of testingwhen the machine was suddenly disconnected from the five-kilometre cable. GSR is conducting tests at the Clarion Clipperton zone, where it holds an exploration licence. A spokesman for the company conveyed that it would soon begin mining action.

The use of modern machinery for deep-sea mining has met with some reservations and criticism. There are those who fear that the exploitation of deposits in the deep sea will sooner or later adversely affect the environment.

deep-sea research unit
Deep-sea research vessel photo GSR / News footage via REUTERS

Accordingly, GSR is testing its prototype under the observation of independent experts from 29 European institutes. Based on the tests, scientists will investigate the potential impact of mining on the ecosystem.

If all goes according to plan, the company plans to have the Patania II robot up and running by 2024. They want to have another, larger robot capable of mining the collected material by 2028.

We will only apply for an operating permit if science shows that our activities do not pose a risk to the environment.said Kris Van Nijen, CEO of GSR

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that many companies and countries have already agreed contracts for deep-sea mining. However, regulations for this type of activity still need to be first finalised and approved by the International Seabed Authority, a dedicated UN body.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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