The MIDAS project - Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation - was a multidisciplinary research programme investigating the environmental impacts of extracting mineral and energy resources from the deep-sea environment. This included the exploitation of materials such as polymetallic sulphides, manganese nodules, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, methane hydrates and the potential mining of rare earth elements. MIDAS was funded under the European Commission's Framework 7 initiative from November 2013 for a period of 3 years, and has recently completed its programme of research.
The MIDAS partnership represented a unique combination of scientists, industry, social scientists, legal experts, NGOs and SMEs from across Europe. MIDAS carried out research into the nature and scales of the potential impacts of mining, including 1) the physical destruction of the seabed by mining, creation of mine tailings and the potential for catastrophic slope failures from methane hydrate exploitation; 2) the potential effects of particle-laden plumes in the water column, and 3) the possible toxic chemicals that might be released by the mining process and their effect on deep-sea ecosystems. Key biological unknowns, such as the connectivity between populations, impacts of the loss of biological diversity on ecosystem functioning, and how quickly the ecosystems will recover were addressed.
MIDAS has an ambitious set of objectives, aimed at building the knowledge base to underpin sound environmental policies in relation to deep-sea exploitation:
1. To identify the scale of possible impacts, and their duration, on deep-sea ecosystems associated with different types of resource extraction activities;
2. To develop workable solutions and best practice codes for environmentally sound and socially acceptable commercial activities;
3. To develop cost-effective technologies for monitoring the impacts of mineral exploitation and the subsequent recovery of ecosystems;
4. To work with policy makers in the European and international arenas to enshrine best practice in international and national regulations and overarching legal frameworks.