The discovery of underground mineral deposits is always seen as an opportunity for economic emancipation. However, the difficulties involved in exploring the minerals have been the greatest obstacles to the full exploration of sea floor mineral deposits such as sulphide.
The first challenge is in locating an active ridge spreading area. The location of an active hydrothermal activity is a very taunting task requiring the use of high resolution multi-beam sonar and a comprehensive mapping of the seafloor requiring the use of magnetic field sensors.
The possibility of encountering corrosive acidic fluids from vents is another great challenge experienced by seafloor miners. The situation becomes worse when the mining team does not have chemical and temperature sensors. The process of locating hydrothermal vents with sulfide deposits requires extensive underwater surveys with concrete photographic data.
Although many sulfide deposits have been discovered in international waters, the mineral has not been fully exploited because of the high cost involved in mining seafloor mineral deposits. The process of locating, characterization and final extraction is still very costly compared to land-based mining. There are very few mining companies all over the world with the high resolution equipment for mining underground mineral deposits such as sulfide.
There are a lot of risks involved in exploring deep sea sulfide deposits that are beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones. The financial risk is relatively high considering the fact that the economic prospects of deep sea mining in those zones are unpredictable. The regulatory environment is the other issue of concern in deep sea mining of sulfide.
There are no special regulations to govern deep sea mining in both international and territorial waters. For comprehensive exploration of deep sea sulfide deposits, in is necessary for regulations governing research, and all exploration activities to be put in place. Currently there are no regulatory codes for deep sea mining.
The International Seabed Authority has voluntary codes that are yet to be fully enforced. Countries with deep sea mineral deposits have to come up with the necessary regulations to facilitate the exploration of deep sea minerals like sulfide. Environmentalists have always been against deep sea mining by claiming that deep sea mining is a serious threat to the marine environment.
The International Seabed Authority has been at the forefront in regulating deep sea mining to protect the marine environment from the adverse effects of deep sea mining. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment is needed before any deep sea mining activities begin.
The potential impact of sulfide exploration to marine life and the possible models of transporting dissolved minerals need to be determined before the exploration of sulfide deposits. The cost and benefits of seabed mining have not been seriously explored in recent times due to the economic hardships experienced in recent times. Many mining companies have come up with new technologies to fully explore deep sea mining but this has been possible due to the many hardships involved in getting operation permits.