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Henry Wein

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The deep sea. There is no place on our planet we know less about. We have more information about the surface of Mars than the bottom of the ocean.


The deep ocean is responsible for absorbing more than 90% of Earth’s accumulating heat. We do not understand how it works yet, but we have already made plans to destroy it in big scale.


A new mining industry with the greatest commercial potential of human history. We can estimate the scale of profit, but we cannot comprehend the consequences we might face, when destroying it. 

At least… not yet.


Since the discovery of deposits of precious metals, it has been an interest to mine them in big scale. The graphic shows how these operations are most likely going to look like. 

Big machinery is operating on the bottom of the ocean in a depth between 2500 - 6500 metres. They work like vacuum cleaners. The metals known as “polymetallic nodules” alongside everything around it in 15 cm depth is being sucked. A vessel is connected to a long pipe (riser pipe) that transports the mined metals onto the surface, where they are separated from the unwanted sediment. The remains are then pumped back into the ocean creating big clouds of uncontrolled sediment called “plumes” that can spread over several kilometres. 


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The installation represents the connection between this ecosystem and the climate of our atmosphere. It visualises the possibility of destroying the cooling function of the deep sea, that the planned mining operations could cause.

The different components represent the interconnectedness of the aspects and show how they relate to one another. 

A quick run through: Greenhouse gases are causing our climate to heat up. The deep sea is doing its best to cool it down but when interrupted, by mining vast areas, the ecosystem could tip out of balance and its cooling function would be lost. Our climate would slowly but steadily warm up more and more and rapidly speed up the process of climate change.


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There are many different aspects to this industry. There is a lot of potential and a lot that could go wrong. Most importantly though, is that we can and have to properly plan and think about how to approach this topic. It is the first time in history where we have the chance to do so and not rush in and later tackle the consequences.

All of the objects represent different aspects of research on deep sea mining. The shapes of the objects relate to the short text next to them. 

Inspired by the concept of a totem pole, the objects are meant to be piled according to priority, starting with what you consider to be most crucial. The rest can be stacked on top of it, finishing off with the object that you think represents the least important topic.


The aim is to get an insight of what the public thinks about deep sea mining and how you think it should be approached. 

What aspects should get most attention? 

What impacts might it have?

Is it worth mining the metals?

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Scientific Research 

We only know of a fraction of the oceans and even less about the deep sea. More than 85% of it is still unknown. There are great opportunities to be explored and much we can learn about this unique ecosystem that we know so little about. On almost every dive into the depths of the ocean, new species are being discovered. The conditions seem hostile and yet there is an abundance of life and a variety of organisms. They are able to live without any sun light, in an environment with a pressure equivalent to over 60 stacked aeroplanes.

So many unsolved questions and things we cannot explain. Not yet at least. Scientists even believe that it could give hints about the origin of life on this planet.

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Economic Potential

The mining industry has great commercial potential that could contribute to economy. It requires special machinery that needs to be build, delivered and operated. The list of jobs connected to the mining and metal industry does not stop there. There are thousands of professions linked to the sector. From an operator of a mining vessel to a mechanic installing solar panels on city rooftops.

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Environmental Impact

We do not yet understand how the ecosystem of the deep sea works and cannot comprehend the affect of changes to its environment, let alone the possible consequences of disrupting it. What is certain though, is that extracting metals means destroying vast areas of the sea floor including its flora and fauna. Some areas even reaching the width of Europe.

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Green Energies

These “polymetallic nodules” are the objective of a new mining industry. The round, fist sized stones contain precious metals like manganese, nickel, copper and cobalt. Metals needed to build batteries, wires, solar panels and many other technologies.  

There are millions of tonnes that could potentially be extracted from the deep sea. The biggest  deposits ever to be mined in the history of human kind. It would ensure enough raw materials for expanding the “Green Energies”.

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Environmental Recovery 

Once deep sea mining has started, land mining sites could potentially be slowed down or even shut down completely, due to the vast amount of metals extracted from the deep sea. It could take off some pressure from the already over exhausted land mines and their surrounding environment and communities. 

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Medical Use 

Scientists have found pharmaceutical properties in different kinds of deep sea sponges. They prove to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antimalarial, antitumor, immunosuppressive and cardiovascular activity. With further research and testing they could potentially be used for drugs that might be effective against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and many others.

There is a huge potential for extensive medical research and the development of groundbreaking medicine. Would this interfere with the mining industry or could they work together?

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