Opportunities of deep-sea mining and ESG risks - Amundi

In recent decades, interest in deep-sea mining has been growing, focusing mainly on three types of deposits: polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts. These deposits could contain large amounts of minerals, making them an interesting option to meet growing global demand.

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Several countries and the European Union have expressed a keen interest in these activities, seeing them as an opportunity to secure their supply of mineral resources and their independence (90% of the metals used in Europe are imported). France has defined a national strategy to support the sector’s activities, and the European Union supports several exploration campaigns conducted by European consortiums. Some companies have also positioned themselves in the sector, although no mining activity has started to date.

Deep-sea mining faces several types of hurdles, however. From a regulatory standpoint, obtaining permits for exploration and especially for mining is far from simple. Mining in international waters, regulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), is in fact currently impossible as the regulations for these activities are incomplete. In Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), the rules and requirements set by each country must be complied with.

Extracting ores at depths of up to 5,000 metres also represents a major technological challenge, notably in terms of dealing with pressure and low temperatures. Apart from an elaborate system to extract polymetallic sulphides, there is as yet no operational mining technology. Deep-sea mining would especially have significant environmental impacts, as has been demonstrated by many scientific reports. Given the broad lack of knowledge of these environments’ ecosystems, it is difficult to estimate.

Follow the link below to read this Amundi discussion paper.

Date of publication: August 2017

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