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Announcement: new JPI Oceans Joint Call on the ecological aspects of deep-sea mining

With the support of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania and the UK, JPI Oceans aims to further advance scientific knowledge in support of policy making on deep-sea mining, while facilitating the analysis of related ethical implications and societal consequences. The deadline for submitting pre-proposals in response to the joint call is 01.03.2024 - 17:00 CET.

Description

With the support of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania and the UK, JPI Oceans aims to further advance scientific knowledge in support of policy making on deep-sea mining, while facilitating the analysis of related ethical implications and societal consequences.

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  • Launched
  • Open for submission of pre-proposals
  • Evaluation pre-proposals
  • Open for submission of full proposals
  • Evaluation full proposals
  • Project selection
  • Concluded

Overview

Funding

€ 6,376,000

Duration

Oct 2023 - Jul 2025

Type of action

Joint Call, Infrastructure Sharing

Lead country

Belgium

Co-lead country

Germany

Participating countries

Belgium
Germany
Italy
Poland
Romania
Netherlands
United Kingdom
Norway

Updated call text - 9 February 2024: Correction of submission deadline on p.18; inclusion of the National Funding Rules of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (UK); update of the National Funding Rules of the National Center for Research and Development, Poland; inclusion of the Research Council of Norway as an additional funding partner. 

The scope of this joint call results from a yearlong process in which scientists, policy makers, industry, and NGO representatives as well as interested JPI Oceans members gathered to take stock of knowledge gaps and future research priorities. Exploring the potential of a successor activity to two previous phases of the JPI Oceans Joint Action on the ecological aspects of deep-sea mining, experts, policy makers, and interested JPI Oceans members gathered first in a scoping meeting on 11 October 2022. Several aspects of deep-sea mining impact were identified that require further or more detailed investigation. Following up, a meeting was set up with the ISA secretariat to identify the information needs from a policy perspective. This step was complemented by a stakeholder consultation workshop in which representatives from NGOs and industry were consulted to give their perspective on a third phase of the Joint Action.

As a result of these meetings and a brief review of recently published studies, the following issues have been identified as important scientific objectives in a successor phase:

Ecosystem dynamics

  • Analyse the ecosystem functioning and food web architecture in the deep sea;
  • Understand and assess ecosystem resilience;
  • Understand the natural spatial and temporal trends and variability in the deep sea on a regional scale;
  • Accounting of biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services in the deep sea.

Ecological impacts of polymetallic nodule mining

  • Underpin the scientific evidence to establish threshold values that define serious harm and to develop indicators of ecosystem health;
  • Investigate effectiveness of mitigation and potential restoration measures;
  • Study longer-term and cumulative impacts on polymetallic nodule habitats by prototype collector trials;
  • Develop a deep-sea digital twin and modelling approaches to enable a better predictive capacity and trade off analysis;
  • Make a comparative analysis of terrestrial and deep-sea mining in terms of their socio-ecological footprints, forming a foundation for further societal discourse.

Ecological impacts of massive sulphide mining

  • Characterise polymetallic sulphide-based ecosystems at inactive vent sites;
  • Investigate abiotic parameters at hydrothermally inactive sites of massive sulphide deposits and neighbouring deep-sea habitats;
  • Study the ecological impact of potential massive sulphide mining tests including the identification of test-sites;

Science-based support to governance

  • Make a preliminary analysis of proposed governance and management regimes;
  • Inform the definition and development of improved standards and guidelines for environmental baselines, monitoring, and impact assessment;
  • Establish adaptive management tools and criteria for minimizing harmful impacts;
  • Analyse ethical implications and societal consequences related to deep-sea mining.

While the previously funded MiningImpact II project studied ecological impacts of a pre-prototype polymetallic nodule collector vehicle (Patania II) exploitation test, in a follow-up phase fieldwork in one of the funded projects could be linked to a full-scale mining test which includes a riser system. Monitoring of the industrial equipment test should particularly aim at reducing the existing uncertainties with respect to the discharged sediment plume and its short- to long-distance impacts on the pelagic ecosystem through released substances, suspended particle concentrations, and eventually deposited blankets of displaced sediment.

In general projects are encouraged to inform the ongoing work of the International Seabed Authority and its members and consider opportunities to align their activities with the strategic research priorities of the ISA Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research.

Timeline
Call publication01.12.2023
Deadline for submitting pre-proposals01.03.2024 - 17:00 CET
End of peer-review process 01.05.2024
Selection of pre-proposals by funding partners15.05.2024
Inform positively ranked institutions 20.05.2024
Deadline for submitting full proposals 30.09.2024 - 17:00 CEST
End of peer-review process15.11.2024
Selection of full proposals by funding partners29.11.2024
Start of projects     01.07.2025
Collaboration with external private sector partners:

To accommodate collaboration between the research project proposals and potential interested commercial parties, JPI Oceans launched a  call for expression of interest for private sector partners preceding the trans-national joint call. As a result of this call a list of potential collaboration opportunities which can be integrated in project proposals is made available below:

  • Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR), part of the DEME group is a company intending to conduct a full-scale polymetallic nodule mining test in 2027. GSR is interested in opening up its activities for independent observations by an external research project.
  • The company Oengineering is specifically offering its product, the GUARD-1 autonomous underwater camera as a testing tool in the ecological monitoring of deep-sea mining.
  • The company Basecamp Research is specialized in off-grid metagenomic DNA analysis. It offers capabilities for monitoring the impact of deep-sea mining in respect to the microbial diversity and the bioprospecting potential of these ecosystems and of other critical provisions services these habitats provide.

More information in the call text (Updated on 5 December 2023).

Conditions for collaboration with private sector partners:

  1. The research project(s) will work in full independence of the private sector partners; Funding agencies will not provide funding for the development of mining activities or technologies. Vice versa, research project participants cannot receive funding from private sector partners.  
  2. Regulatory requirements regarding state-aid and competition will be observed;
  3. Transparency is key. All results deriving from the publicly funded project(s) will be made available through open data and open access publications and databases;
  4. Enterprises will gain insights from the project(s) concurrently with the wider community, ensuring a level playing field in access to the resultant data.
  5. Research projects working in partnership with private sector entities should not serve as substitutes for environmental impact assessments related to test mining activities or technologies. Private sector entities are responsible for funding separate assessments if mandated.
Funding

FUNDING PARTNERS from Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania and the UK make available a total of € 6,896,000 for the joint call. Each participant in a consortium will be funded by their national partner organization. ASSOCIATE PARTNERS from other (non-European) countries with in-kind contributions are welcome.

  • Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and Department of Economy, Science & Innovation, Government of Flanders, Belgium*
  • The Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), Germany*
  • Ministry of Universities and Research (MUR), Italy
  • Dutch Research Council (NWO), The Netherlands*
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN), Norway* 
  • Narodowe Centrum Badań i Rozwoju (NCBR), Poland
  • Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development, and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), Romania
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom

*The budgets of BELSPO, BMBF, NWO and RCN are contingent on approval of funds at national level.

Both Belgium and Germany are making available ship-time onboard of two research vessels (RV Belgica and RV Sonne respectively). Project applicants are strongly encouraged to make use of these available resources in their project proposals. While access to the research vessels is not limited to individuals from institutes of the contributing states, the request for access should be submitted thorough the appropriate national channels. More information in the call text (Updated on 9 February 2024). 

Application

All proposals must be submitted using the online form and adhering to the provided pre-proposal template.

Eligibility

Each application for a joint project must involve researchers from at least three FUNDING PARTNER countries. Self-funded partners including partners from countries (and/or regions) not participating in this call are allowed but do not contribute to the minimum eligible consortium size. No maximum number of partners is specified.

Disclaimer

As in previous phases of the JPI Oceans Joint Action on the ecological aspects of deep-sea mining, the successor activities will focus on studying environmental impacts and risks but the Funding Parties will not fund (the development of) mining activities or technologies. Furthermore, implementing the Joint Action does not imply that JPI Oceans or its Member Countries endorse or disapprove of seafloor mining and related operations.