European Deep-Sea Mining Robot Recovered at Bottom of Pacific

A deep-sea mining robot reported lost at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has been recovered and will continue to undergo testing in the cobalt-rich seabed.

Global Sea Mineral Resources reported Wednesday that its Patania II device had malfunctioned, uncoupling from a five-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) cable connecting it to the surface. The unit of Belgium’s DEME Group is with a group of European scientists to determine the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining.

“This is pioneering engineering work and we were prepared for multiple eventualities,” said GSR Managing Director Kris Van Nijen.

Controversial plans to mine the ocean floor face a key test this year when a United Nations body unveils rules that could spur the exploitation of hundreds of billions of dollars of battery metals. Environmentalists say that would endanger fragile marine ecosystems, while the industry argues that extracting metals needed for the green-energy transition would cause less damage than terrestrial mining.

DEME Group is among a group of companies, including DeepGreen Metals Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and China Minmetals Corp., spearheading moves to exploit seabed metals needed by electric vehicles.

The GSR robot had been operating at a depth of 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone: an expanse of ocean between Hawaii and Mexico that’s as big as the continental U.S. Its seabed is littered with billions of tons of manganese nodules -- fist-sized rocks formed over thousands of years, which are filled with nickel and cobalt needed for lithium-ion batteries.

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