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Extent of impact of deep-sea nodule mining midwater plumes is influenced by sediment loading, turbulence and thresholds

July 27, 2021

Deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining research activity has substantially increased in recent years, but the expected level of environmental impact is still being established. One environmental concern is the discharge of a sediment plume into the midwater column. We performed a dedicated field study using sediment from the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone. The plume was monitored and tracked using both established and novel instrumentation, including acoustic and turbulence measurements. Our field studies reveal that modeling can reliably predict the properties of a midwater plume in the vicinity of the discharge and that sediment aggregation effects are not significant. The plume model is used to drive a numerical simulation of a commercial-scale operation in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone. Key takeaways are that the scale of impact of the plume is notably influenced by the values of environmentally acceptable threshold levels, the quantity of discharged sediment, and the turbulent diffusivity in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Extent of impact of deep-sea nodule mining midwater plumes is influenced by sediment loading, turbulence and thresholds
DOI 10.1038/s43247-021-00213-8
Authors Carlos Munoz-Royo, Thomas Peacock, Matthew Alford, Jerome Smith, Arnaud Le Boyer, Chinmay Kulkarni, Pierre Lermusiaux, Patrick Haley, C Mirabito, Dayang Wang, Eric Adams, Raphael Ouillon, Alexander Breugem, Boudewijn Decrop, Thijs Lanckreit, Rohit Supekar, Andrew Rzeznik, Amy Gartman, Se-Jong Ju
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Communications Earth & Environment
Index ID 70222452
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center