It was about ten years ago when Dutch companies and people started thinking about the possibilities and necessity of deepsea mining. Of course, in the Netherlands and, not to forget Belgium, a lot of people and companies are involved in dredging. And dredging and deepsea mining have a lot in common.
It all starts with excavating soil with tools like cutterheads and pumps. The big difference, however, is the depth. In dredging, one talks about depths of several dozens of metres where in deepsea mining you have to deal with sometimes thousands of metres.
When you look for tools and materials for dredging or deepsea mining, the dredging business in the Netherlands is the first choice. Some ten years ago, several firms started to develop those tools. Damen (Nijkerk) focused on pumps and parts for crawlers, while IHC sought specially to develop risers to bring the soil with precious materials from the depth of the sea towards the surface.
Investors are lining up
Developing new tools, however, is costly, without a guarantee of being able to earn back these costs in the future. What also doesn’t help is that one important stakeholder in the development of deepsea mining was missing in the Netherlands: the driving force of investors, either private or governmental. Investors from abroad were needed.
Now, ten years later, they are here. The European Union is investing in the R&D for deepsea mining and this has brought forward the developments enormously. Our editorial colleague Alexz Schasfoort, an American student of the TU Delft with Dutch roots coordinated SWZ|Maritime’s May special on deepsea mining and wrote an overview of the current state of affairs.
Role for the Netherlands in deepsea mining
This comes at a moment when Belgian dredging company DEME through its subsidiary Global Sea Mineral Resources for the first time successfully collected nodules from 4.5 kilometres beneath the sea surface. This is only one development of what is seriously becoming an industry in which Dutch R&D institutes and private companies play an important role.
IHC and Damen deliver tools and equipment while Damen is at this moment building the world’s largest deepsea diamond mining ship for De Beers. Allseas has bought a second-hand drilling ship to refit it for deepsea mining. Very intriguing developments that provide interesting reading in this special of SWZ|Maritime.
This is editor-in-chief Antoon Oosting’s editorial accompanying the May 2021 issue. Unfortunately, our digital archive is currently unavailable. So, our magazine is only available to subscribers at the moment. Not yet a subscriber? Visit our subscription page.
Picture (top) by DEME.