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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Finlay Prescott

Barriers to, and Implications of, Deep-sea Mining

This thesis gives a brief history of deep-sea mining, an understanding of the JORC
Code for mineral resource and reserve classification, and a description of Nautilus Minerals
Inc.; expected to be the first ever commercially successful deep-sea mining company. This
thesis looks at the three most common deep-sea mineral deposits; cobalt-rich crusts,
polymetallic nodules and seafloor massive sulphides, with a focus on copper and gold.
The case for increased access to resources in parallel with sustainability is
presented, along with an understanding of a Nested Dependency Value Framework. These
raise the questions “What are the barriers to deep-sea mining?” and “What are the key
leverage points in effectively managing and regulating deep-sea mining?”.


The initial question is evaluated using PESTLE Analysis in conjunction with the
concept of risk; the product of probability and severity. The second question builds on the
findings, and concludes that the combination of scientific knowledge, presented through
the courts, and ultimately adopted into law is the most effective and enduring method of
managing and regulating deep-sea mining.