31 August 2017 Freiberg Demonstration tests
Before entering deep sea mining operations many kilometers down on the seafloor, one needs to be sure about every detail. In Halsbrücke, near Freiberg, German and Dutch researchers are investigating the vertical hydraulic transport of sediments over a distance of more than 130 meters. The test program is one of the Blue Mining demonstration activities, with which the consortium aims at de-risking deep sea mining operations and looks for validation of the mathematical transport models used for design and engineering. Thursday August 31st the Blue Mining consortium was invited over to Halsbrücke to witness one of the experiments.
It is not business as usual when a large EU party enters a small village in the hills of Saxony to talk about deep sea mining. Welcomed by prof. Mischo from TUBAF, the mayor of Halsbrücke Andreas Beger, chief mining administrator Prof. Dr. Berhard Cramer of the Mining Authorities of Saxony and Dr. Van de Ketterij, Blue Mining Technical coordinator, the party set out to get to know the research activities of the joint German-Dutch effort.
The research centers around a large, purpose built flow loop. TUBAF researcher Toni Müller and Royal IHC Researchers Siemen Dasselaar and Dr. Jort van Wijk presented the test setup and explained about the test program. Sediments of different sizes are inserted in a closed loop flow circuit with two large vertical pipes. The riser pipe is equipped with pressure sensors, temperature sensors, a flow meter and conductivity concentration meter, making it one of the largest flow loops currently available. The setup allows for detailed monitoring of the slurry flow on a scale unavailable thus far. These tests are crucial in the modelling and de-risking of deep sea mining.
Followed by local and national German press, the team demonstrated how to use and operate the system, the apotheosis being the real experiment. The experiment comprised the testing of a sand-gravel mixture, which made the perfect scene for networking and discussion for the consortium. Refreshments, coffee, sandwiches and full screen TV to follow the data acquisition process made the afternoon complete.
The team is close to finishing the test program and dismantling the setup. But before that, one final step will be taken. The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe or BGR), will donate real manganese nodules from the German license area in the Pacific brought up from a water depth of 5,000 m. The team will conduct an experiment with these real nodules end of September, bringing deep sea mining even closer to the EU.