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Exploring the Environmental Consequences of Deep-Sea Mining

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The Faculdade de Ciências da Univrsidade do Porto (FUCP) is leading a project which aims to evaluate the potential impacts of deep-sea mining, with a focus on the Azores, a region “rich in resources with potential for the energy transition”.

The FUCP announced that researchers are developing numerical and ecological models, as well as carrying out ecotoxicological tests to predict “how sediments in the deep sea will be transported” and to evaluate their effects on marine organisms.

The “most immediate and expected” consequence of deep-sea mining is the presence of sediment plumes, which are released during the mining process and can potentially disperse over large distances, “increasing the turbidity of the water column and potentially affecting organisms several kilometers from the initial source of contamination”.

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Researches will be carrying out tests to determine these impacts, using a hyperbaric chamber, which will allow them to simulate deep-sea conditions, such as pressure and temperature.

Miguel Santos, professor from the Departamento de Biologia da FUCP, stated there is “a great fear regarding the impacts that mining can have on ecosystems”, adding “there are many international pressures to have exploration”.

“Our objective is to understand, for example, the impacts in terms of habitat destruction and the effects of the sediment plume, to help authorities develop some appropriate risk management and assessment measures”, declared Miguel Santos, who is also a researcher at the Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR) of the Universidade do Porto.

The project’s reference is the Azores, a region “much sought after for its resources”, which have “great biodiversity and unique ecosystems with potential biomolecules of biotechnological interest”.

The FUCP explained to avoid the hasty start of deep-sea mining, moratoriums were introduced to prevent these procedures until an analysis of the environmental, social and economic risks is completed.

The project has the collaboration of the Universidade dos Açores, the Instituto Português do Mar e Atmosfera (IPMA) and CIIMAR, with a funding of €25 thousand by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnnologia.

This project will run until the end of 2024.

 

Source: The Portugal News

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