Advanced technologies for future mining.

Vision and Mission

Electrifing our future means higher demands of materials - especially copper for wires, generators, transformators, and electric appliances. Copper is contained in ores like Chacopyrite or Bornite - usually mined in open-pit mines in Chile, Peru, or the Indonesian Archipelago. Estimates show that demand will growth threefold within the next 30 years [Visual Capitalist: Copper Demand for Renewables].

To meet that demand either production and productivity of existing mines has to be increased dramatically - with all resulting consequences. An alternative approach is to mine the ore directly at spots where they are formed: in the rift zones of the oceans. While ores in terrestrial mines usually contain 0.5 to 1.2% of copper, buried under overburden of upt to several hundred meters, ore formed by black smokers can contain up to 25% copper, and can be found literarily atop the seabed.

Utilizing these ore means a minimum of energy to mine the ore and much lower resource consumption to process it. The impact of mining can be reduced to the minimal necessary incoursion. 

Read more about the Vertical Approach

06|21 - 05|24




6.8 Mio €

Project Volume

4.6 Mio €






The decades to come will be the decades of ore mining.

A new kind of ore mining.



Development of equipment to explore and mine massive sulfides in rift zones.


Development of active and passive protection gear to minimize environmental impact.


Exploration of seabed massive sulfides to gain and improve knowledge.


Test of equipment, materials, and technologies.


With the Deep Sea Sampling Project focus is taken on both machinery to mine the ore as well as protection gear to minimize the impact on the environment. The vertical approach is a mere surgical cut of approx. 3 x 1.5 m, placed exactly at the position of the ore - a defunct Black Smoker. Shields around the milling head provide passive protection of the immediate environment; while hydro cyclones cause a pressure difference to enclose almost any particle within the mining side. The ore is immediately transported into a closed container, and then lifted to the surface. 

Securing marine ecosystems and minimizing impact of both mining and logistic operations are key requirements to any development specification. Approaches in recent decades usually utilized heavy mining equipment moving along the ocean floor. Within Deep Sea Sampling, equipment will be moved without surface contact to minimize disturbance of seabed surface.

Lifting the ore means

  • lowering the equipment to the seabed at approx. 2.500 ... 4.000 metres

  • positioning the equipment at a defunct black smoker,

  • align shields around the milling head,

  • mill the ore and transport it by using hydro cyclones,

  • lift the container to the surface, and bring it back for continued operations.

Black Smokers are located at rift zones, large fractured zones at the oceans sea beds around the globe. In these areas ore - as seabed sulfite minerals (SMS) - is formed by hot acid water. Below a Black Smoker, water is heated up and pressurized below the ocean floor, solving minerals far below the seabed from surrounding formations. Driven up by enormous head is is spilled out of surface cracks leaving Calcite-, Silica-, and Sulfite-minerals rich in copper, iron, tin, zinc, and other precious elements when getting in contact with cold deep sea water. These minerals forming constantly growing and collapsing structures similar to smokestacks, which where namesake for this natural theatre. As long as Black Smokers are active - providing heat - they are a spot of an abundant deep sea marine live. After the smoker gets inactive and temperature fell back to the freezing 2° C life disappears; while tons of ore remain in mounds - formed out of collapsed stacks, precipitated and recrystallized minerals. 

While hydrothermally formed deposits which are currently mined onshore had been formed several hundred million years ago - and since then buried under heavy layers of sedimentary rocks - Sulfite Massive Minerals can be found literarily «on the surface». Utilizing these high-grade ores without having to remove overburden is the main objective of Deep Sea Sampling (DSS). 

Minimal invasive mining

Virtually no overburden of associated volcanic rocks

Very small footprint of only a few square metres on the sea floor

No causing of significant suspension plume

Project partners and supporters

Five strong partners from research and industry - with long standing experience in the related engineering fields - have joint forces to design an entirely new kind of mining equipment: small, smart, and precise. From first conceptual designs to running prototypes every partner provides necessery skills, development environments and test facilities. Funded by the Maritime Technologies Research Framework (BMWK and PTJ) and closely collaborating with Germanys leading Raw Material Research Institution (BGR) and partners in the Deep Sea Mining Alliance (DSMA) to develop equipment which helps to understand seabed amssive sulfites in the German Licence Area in the Indian Ocean.