The InterRidge Working Group on Seafloor Mineralization (SMWG) has developed three groups of questions and recommendations to advance the scientific knowledge of seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits:
What are the spatial controls on hydrothermal activity and SMS deposition?
What are the timescales for the evolution of SMS deposits?
What are the changes in biological communities that occur during the evolution of an SMS deposit?
Recommendations range from developing a list of criteria to quantify the extent of activity at a hydrothermal vent site, to using cutting‐edge technology to locate and characterize inactive deposits, to encouraging biological studies of inactive and extinct SMS deposits.
PDF file: InterRidge Seafloor Mineralization Working Group - 2009 Meeting Report
The SMWG held its first meeting on 3 April 2009, following a two‐day science and policy workshop on deep‐sea mining of seafloor massive sulfides (http://www.whoi.edu/workshops/deepseamining/). The SMWG met to discuss the main themes/topics and issues that arose in the previous two days and to identify gaps in scientific knowledge of SMS deposits. A central charge of the SMWG was to assess the current knowledge of seafloor hydrothermal/SMS deposits and to relate what we know and don’t know about active vent systems to the relatively poorly studied inactive systems. Science has focused on the active systems for obvious reasons: they are the locus of active processes, they host unique fauna, they are easier to locate, and along with inactive deposits they provide analogs to ancient deposits. There has been markedly less focus on the inactive or extinct deposits. Part of the reason for this has been because inactive deposits are hard to locate except in the vicinity of active systems, they do not host the spectacular and abundant fauna found at active vents, and the processes that are occurring at these inactive sites are likely occurring within the deposits or mounds and possibly occur over long timescales.
A sound scientific base of knowledge would both advance science but also inform the commercial and political world of the importance of these multi‐faceted resources and encourage responsible development. These questions and recommendations have been provided to the International Seabed Authority for the 15th Session (25 May - 5 June 2009).