Measurement and modelling of deep sea sediment plumes and implications for deep sea mining

Spearman, J. and Taylor, J. and Crossouard, N. and Cooper, A. and Turnbull, M. and Manning, A.J. and Lee, M. and Murton, B. (2020) Measurement and modelling of deep sea sediment plumes and implications for deep sea mining. Scientific Reports, 10 (5075).

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Deep sea mining concerns the extraction of poly-metallic nodules, cobalt-rich crusts and sulphide deposits from the ocean floor. The exploitation of these resources will result in adverse ecological effects arising from the direct removal of the substrate and, potentially, from the formation of sediment plumes that could result in deposition of fine sediment on sensitive species or entrainment of sediment, chemicals and nutrients into over-lying waters. Hence, identifying the behaviour of deep-sea sediment plumes is important in designing mining operations that are ecologically acceptable. Here, we present the results of novel in situ deep sea plume experiments undertaken on the Tropic seamount, 300 nautical miles SSW of the Canary Islands. These plume experiments were accompanied by hydrographic and oceanographic field surveys and supported by detailed numerical modelling and high resolution video settling velocity measurements of the in situ sediment undertaken in the laboratory. The plume experiments involved the controlled formation of benthic sediment plumes and measurement of the plume sediment concentration at a specially designed lander placed at set distances from the plume origin. The experiments were used as the basis for validation of a numerical dispersion model, which was then used to predict the dispersion of plumes generated by full-scale mining. The results highlight that the extent of dispersion of benthic sediment plumes, resulting from mining operations, is significantly reduced by the effects of flocculation, background turbidity and internal tides. These considerations must be taken into account when evaluating the impact and extent of benthic sediment plumes.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access
Subjects: Maritime > General
Divisions: Maritime
Depositing User: Helen Stevenson
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2020 14:32
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2021 14:10

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