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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Breakthrough Solutions for Seafloor Mineral Extraction and Processing in deep water environment

Objectives of the commitment

Scientific explorations from the past decades have identified several types of seafloor mineral deposits including Seafloor Massive Sulphides (SMS). In Europe, Azores and Wallis and Futuna are shown to have the potential to contain SMS ores.
To enable commercial deep sea mining socially and environmentally acceptable, technologically achievable and economically viable methods need to be developed. The key innovation in this project is the generic design and in-situ demonstration activities of a cost-efficient and environmentally-acceptable deep sea mining pilot system. This project is complementary with ALBATROSS deep-sea exploration project led by Eramet.
Technology developed in this project will also reinforce Europe’s ambitions to be active in exploration areas outside Europe, thus increasing access to Raw Materials via new mining solutions and decreasing EU dependency on resource imports.

Description of the activities

SeaFlores activities will consist of three different phases:
• Phase 1: Definition of mineral processing route and Feasibility study (FS) of the deep sea mining pilot,
• Phase 2: Pilot Plant detailed design, manufacturing and deployment on the basis of the FS results,
• Phase 3: Offshore demonstration activities in-situ.
It must be pointed out that Phase 1 can be covered by upcoming Horizon 2020 topic “SC5-11-2014/2015: New solutions for sustainable production of Raw Materials, item c) Deep mining on continent and in sea-bed” where the emphasis is on developing new highly-automated technological sustainable solutions for deep mining in the sea bed in-situ and proving the concept and feasibility at the level of TRL 5-6. Activities described hereafter corresponds to this first phase (only).
The process designed to pre-concentrate the Copper / Zinc sulphides shall consider the variability of the ore. Depending on the mineral composition, the process shall be robust enough to remain stable through the changes or be stabilized up front by premixing ore feed. The initial data required in process design can be most reliably obtained from a pilot study. GTK's pilot plant includes a versatile selection of equipment for all unit processes. As each aspect of beneficiation is optimized, it is incorporated into an efficient overall process. Campaign results at pilot scale are typically sufficient to give an accurate idea of the concentration process yield and economic performance at full scale.
Complex sulphide ores contain more than one single valuable metal sulphide mineral each to be separated into its own individual concentrate. Generally, the ore is ground in two stages after which the ground pulp is subjected to conditioning followed by individual flotation stages to produce different concentrates that are then dewatered to optimum transport moisture. Outotec will provide the consortium with complete mineral processing solutions as Outotec has the expertise and capability for designing, supplying, and constructing mineral processing plant.
In order to achieve a viable, environmentally sound and cost-efficient technological solution, a FS will be performed to better define and optimize the mining pilot layout, topsides and associated subsea systems and methods including but not limited to:
• Vertical mining method,
• Free-flying mining method,
• Seabed based crushing and regulation unit,
• Riser and lifting method,
• Equipment launch and recovery method on surface,
• Ore Transhipment method from the mining ship to the ore carrier,
• The environmental impact assessment using “swarm” of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for the real-time collection and synthesis of all data recovered during mining at sea.
The objective is to compare various design options, evaluate each of them against a number of technical, ecological and economic criteria and, finally, select the most feasible pilot layout.
Environmental management plan that includes preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and risk management strategy will be delivered by Heriot-Watt.The aim will be to propose guidelines for the realization of the environmental baseline and the Environmental Impact Assessment and to compare them to the existing international regulations including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and relevant institutions such as the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Description of the expected impacts

Significantly improve Europe’s and also global marine resource base by unlocking deeper deposits in the EU, global sea-bed deposits using tested and evaluated innovative technologies. One of the pillars of the EU raw materials policy is to increase the attention to raw materials sources in Europe. A marine mining pilot-project would be a substantial contribution to ensuring a coherent approach to Horizon 2020 Blue Growth.

Create numerous new jobs in mining and equipment manufacturing industries in many regions of the EU, including remote and coastal areas. Many countries do not have economic deposits of base and precious metals on land. Mining and processing SMS deposits would provide these countries with a degree of self-sufficiency, lessening the need to import supplies of metals.

Push Europe to the forefront in the areas of extraction concepts, technologies and related services. Participation of major European mining players and several European technology providers ensures the efficient use of the project results. Therefore a sharing of issues will enable to elaborate a common solution that automatically will be less expensive and time saving for all.

Reduce both the environmental impact of the mine operation and the risks to the population and natural life caused by potential failures. Environmental and social impacts still need to be properly assessed. For some environmental aspects, subsea mining will clearly be less harmful than corresponding land mining (less area disturbed, no overburden, less residues…).

Reduce energy and water consumption by the reduction of the volume of materials to be extracted from the mine. New opportunities will arise to incorporate energy efficient processes in the FS and minimise waste and emission to reduce the risk of polluting incidents.

Coordinating organisation & role

Name of the coordinating organisation: TechnipCountry: FranceEntity profile: Private sector - large companyRole within the commitment:

Consortium leading entity will be Technip France. Technip will perform the complete multidiscipline interfaces management and coodination. After determination of the key technical parameters, Technip will also design the Riser and Lifting System. The objectives of these studies are to confirm the technical feasibility of a riser and lifting method and define the most proper SMS pumping system for the generic field development.

Other partners

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V.

Name of the organisation: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V. Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Fraunhofer will lead the CFRP and GFRP recycling research.
Fraunhofer will perform corrosion tests on the developed materials.
Fraunhofer will work with CIDAUT on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project. Fraunhofer is the Quality Manager of the Consortium and will oversee deliverables and general reporting are produced with the best possible quality following agreed review standards.

Fundacion Cidaut

Name of the organisation: Fundacion Cidaut Country: Spain Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: CIDAUT will lead the research activities on materials recycling and compounding, implementing lab scale demonstrators of each process at its premises and, later, supporting end-users upscale the processes.
CIDAUT will perform mechanical tests, microstructural analyses, injection moulding capability studies on the developed materails, and will work with Fraunhofer on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project.

RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV)

Name of the organisation: RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV) Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: RWTH will implement the novel 3D Generative Preforming process (3D Fibre Spraying) that enables to create high-value long fibre-reinforced 3D preforms for thermoplastic and thermoset composites at low process costs (different kinds of yarn as a raw material, low tooling costs due to low cavity pressures). This cost effective technology allows to align the sprayed fibres in order to produce high-performance, engineered anisotropic products.

Universita' di Cagliari

Name of the organisation: Universita' di Cagliari Country: Italy Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: University of Cagliari is one of the leading European organization in the resin design and coupling with thermoplastic and thermose materials. University of Cagliari will support in the definition of the composite materials, both from CFRP/GFRP, ABS and Rare Earth composite material.


Name of the organisation: Relight Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: RELIGHT will work with ITRB to provide the research partners with residues for the recycled ABS supply and the REE recovery processes, including their HydroWEEE process as part of the processes to be studied and analyzed.

Piaggio Aerospace

Name of the organisation: Piaggio Aerospace Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - large company
Role within the commitment: Piaggio Aerospace is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Piaggio will assist in the compounds selection, provide Fraunhofer with specific corrosion requirements on business jet size aircraft, and will assess that the developed materials performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

Blackshape Aircrafts

Name of the organisation: Blackshape Aircrafts Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: Blackshape Aircrafts is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Blackshape will support to fulfill the requirements of the aeronautics industry on ultra light jet, light jet and trainer for Syllabus, and will assess that the developed alloys performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.

KU Leuven

Name of the organisation: KU Leuven Country: Belgium Entity profile: Academia
Role within the commitment: KUL will collaborate on the balance problem studies and will lead the rare earth recovery research with the solvometallurgical and ionometallurgical processes.
KUL will also contribute to the final compounding selection.
KUL is the Dissemination Manager of the project, promoting that all partners are active on the project Dissemination.


Name of the organisation: FIDAMC Country: Spain Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: FIDAMC is going to lead the Work Package on Compression Moulding with CFRP-enhanced materials. As part of the AIRBUS Group, FIDAMC will also be able to provide the input material.
FIDAMC successfully developed a 3D Printer of own design to serve the Aerospace Industry and will be supporting Smart Lab 3D Industries in its 3D printer design.


Name of the organisation: COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER Country: Canada Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Composite Innovation Center is one of the world leading organization in the field of Composite materials, both from carbon fiber and vegetal-based fibers.
Composite Innovation center has successfully implemented, at lab-scale, recycling processes for CFRP and GFRP.

Existing EU Contribution: No

Period to implement the commitment: from 01-01-2015 to 31-12-2025