Blue Nodules going public

One important aspect of the Blue Nodules project is to inform the general Public and other stakeholders about our activities and results. Also there is a need to disseminate a nuanced background story on why the mining of Polymetallic Nodules in the Pacific could be a strategic need to allow the energy transition, due to its high content of kobalt, nickel and cupper. This is also due to the growing NGO and public attention and awareness, which in the public opinion is easily transformed into a “golddiggers” race to the seafloor. The Blue Nodules aim remains to find sustainable technology solutions that enable the supply of the metals required for the benefit of humankind: in this case to enable the energy transition for our and future generations.

In the past year Blue Nodules partners have been involved in many of these activities. Besides our regular visits to conferences and seminars including contributions to news and magazine articles, two events stand out which we would like to share with you in this article. The first is our side event at the International Seabed Organisation (ISA), which is an excellent example of reaching out in a collaborating approach to many of our direct stakeholders. The second is the visit of David Shukman from the BBC to the Sarmiento de Gamboa in Spain during our second field test, resulting in a very nice video clip and news article on the BBC.

An activity that has had a high priority from the start of the project was organising a Blue Nodules side-event at the yearly session of the ISA in Kingston, Jamaica. Together with JPI Oceans a team was formed by Wini Broadbelt, Senior Legal Adviser at Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (delegation leader of the delegation of the Netherlands), Sabine Gollner of NIOZ and Laurens de Jonge of Royal IHC, to organise the side-event at lunchtime (Unfortunately Jort van Wijk of IHC MTI had to cancel last minute.)

With courtasy of the IISD reporting services: the ISA Dutch Delegation: Sabine Gollner, Wini Broadbelt, Laurens de Jonge

This ISA side event provided the opportunity to showcase the Blue Nodules project for all the key stakeholders involved in Deep Sea Mining, including the ISA, the license contractors, the involved countries and also the Social and Environmental NGO’s. Secondly it provided an excellent opportunity to share and inform the results with many representatives of low and middle income countries. Due to its 25th anniversary, the 2019 Session had a high attendance and special external attention. These side events are organised and it drew a full house with over 140. To promote the event, it was sponsored by the delegation of the Netherlands. The delegation leader Wini Broadbelt, present at all ISA meetings since the start, gave an excellent introduction focusing on the Dutch model of cooperation and open discussion between government, science and industry. This was followed by three presentations, starting with Laurens who gave an introduction into the project, the green dilemma and a detailed discussion on the extraction systems research. This was followed by Sabine who presented the environmental aspects of Deep-Sea Mining, specifically the plume measurements,  conducted during the field test and the JPI Oceans cruise to the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in early 2019. The work done on the Vertical Transport System focusing on two aspects: flow assurance and degradation of the nodules during transport was shown. The side event finished with the research on rehabilitation, a 30 years project looking at rehabilitation of different artificial nodules that have been replaced on the seafloor and will be monitored on a regular basis. The successful event ended with a vivid discussion which provided all the opportunity to comment on the presentations and the Blue Nodules project. During the whole week after the event, there was a huge interest and the project partners present were approached by many delegates for discussion, questions and requests for the presentations.

All in all, Blue Nodules has been put in the spotlight in the center of the deep sea mining community. Early in 2019 the Field test team was approached by David Shukman of the BBC who is the Science Editor of BBC News if he could join our field test for a couple of days to film and interview the field test crew. Over the last couple of years David has followed the Deep Sea Mining developments and made several articles and videos, broadcast by the BBC. Of course, it’s always hard to predict the best timing for such a visit, because life at sea is happening while you were busy making other plans. When the field test dates and test program were confirmed with CSIC, the owner of the Sarmiento de Gamboa, arrangements could be made to pick up David, his cameraman and Olive Heffernan, an Irish science writer, who published in Nature, Scientific American and New Scientist. She has written many stories on the human impact on the oceans and the high seas and joined to get first hand stories on the developments in deep sea mining. Many in depth discussions on deep sea mining and its impacts and how to balance the need for resources with the care for the planet took place.. Arriving on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Malaga the journalists were welcomed and blended in immediately with the crew. In the following days David talked with a lot of the crew, interested in all aspects: technical, environmental, ecology and the bigger geopolitical picture of deep-sea mining. On Monday the mooring array was set out and on Tuesday Apollo was launched to make the first real test run along the moorings and its sensors. Timing was of the essence to make sure the currents were in the right direction and a successful test run was made after which Apollo was brought back to deck. This allowed for a lot of nice film and interview opportunities of life action with Apollo. On Wednesday they left us to head back to Malaga again. The resulting articles are balanced and in depth and were published on the BBC website in November:

For our Dutch language followers, here a link to the NOS op 3 websites with a 5 minute explanation of deep sea mining, for which Blue Nodules also contributed: schatten van de zeebodem wie pakt ze als eerste