Sucking up metals from the deep-sea bed

The deep-sea bed is rich in raw materials for making batteries and accumulators, for example. The manganese nodules, consisting of nickel, cobalt and copper, are there for the taking. In a place where people cannot come themselves.

Environmental damage

The Dutch company Allseas carried out successful tests last year at a depth of four kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. Their underwater robot sucked up 4300 tons of manganese nodules. According to Allseas, the impact on marine life is ‘minimal’, because there is almost no marine life.

A robot sucking up manganese nodules from the deep sea bed.

According to marine biologists, the latter is an often heard misunderstanding. “People used to think that there was no marine life in the deep sea. Now we know that there is a lot of life. Biodiversity is very high, but you can’t see everything with the naked eye,” says researcher Sabine Gollner of the Royal Netherlands Institute. for Research of the Sea. “If you see what lives on manganese nodules: corals, sponges, anemones. If you suck up manganese nodules, you also take them with you. They need the nodules to live on.”

Nicole de Voogd, Professor of Marine Ecology. “They are really vacuum cleaners that you let go down to the bottom and that cause clouds of dust in a place where there is never really any disturbance. You disrupt the ecosystem.”


Since Hugo de Groot’s declaration in the 17th century that the sea is ‘free’, everyone can do what he wants. That has changed since this year and there is a treaty on the deep sea, signed by 170 countries. That is the first step towards some moderation and that is a great progress. We hardly know the deep sea and the deep sea floor. Scientists advocate first investigating the extent of the damage and asked for a moratorium. That hasn’t worked yet.

So it helps if you simply reduce your energy use.