2012 Update

The Seafloor Mineralization Working Group was renewed for a second term at the last InterRidge Steering Committee meeting in San Francisco in December 2011. Interest in the mineralisation resources at midocean ridges has continued unabated with the price of metals such as copper, gold and silver near historic highs and nations beginning to look at options for exploration of seafloor areas for polymetallic sulfide resources in “the area” under the regulations of the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Last year, the ISA approved license plans for China Ocean Minerals Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA) for work in the Indian Ocean. It is expected that the ISA will approve plans submitted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation for work on the central Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Logatchev region) at the upcoming ISA meeting in July. Other countries are actively considering submitting license requests before the end of the year.

In April, several members of the SMWG (Cherkashov, Hannington, Petersen, Tivey) attended a workshop hosted by GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany to discuss initiating a program for studying “the metal potential of a slow spreading ridge segment,” which will attempt to address some of the original topics of the working group inclduing the spatial controls and timescales of evolution of seafloor metallic sulfide deposits.

In other related news the US National Science Foundation officially closed down the RIDGE2000 program, which had focused research efforts to study midocean ridge processes including hydrothermal systems and their mineral resources.  Future research funding in these areas is expected to be directed through the core science budget of the various sections of the Ocean Sciences (OCE) division. To close out the program, the RIDGE2000 office organized a special issue of Oceanography magazine on oceanic spreading center processes (http://tos.org/oceanography/archive/25-1.html) that compiles results of several major RIDGE2000 efforts.

Finally, a special session at Ocean Sciences in Salt Lake City (Feb 19-24, 2012) was convened on “Deep-Sea Conservation Imperatives in the 21st Century” chaired by Lisa Levin, Cindy Van Dover, Jeff Ardron and Craig Smith.