Doctoral dissertation on the environmental impacts of seabed mining

M.Sc. Laura Kaikkonen defended her doctoral dissertation in the field of environmental sciences at the University of Helsinki on October 29, 2021. The opponent was Professor Anna Metaxas from the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University in Canada. One of the supervisors of Kaikkonen’s doctoral thesis has been Professor Sakari Kuikka – a member of the Kotka Maritime Research Centre’s management group, from the University of Helsinki. The thesis work was conducted as part of a sub-project led by Professor Kuikka, in the Smartsea project funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland.

The thesis, titled as “Risks out of depth? A study on the environmental impacts of seabed mining“, consists of four scientific articles and a summary section. Environmental risks associated with seabed mining are assessed in a comprehensive manner, from the structuring of the problem and the synthesis of existing knowledge to the development of a probabilistic risk analysis model. The last article of the entity addresses the attitudes of people towards the state of the mostly invisible and inaccessible seabed environments, and the damage caused to them by mining.

Seabed mining is expected to address globally the growing demand for mineral resources, created by – among other things – the growing battery industry. This creates a call for improved knowledge base and effective methods to support the assessment of the environmental impacts of the ocean mining operations and the need for their regulation. Kaikkonen’s dissertation offers scientifically valid solutions, data and reflection on the topic.

”As ocean mining activities are still in exploratory stages, there are significant uncertainties regarding the exploitation of mineral resources and its environmental impacts,” Kaikkonen says and continues by telling unrestricted mineral extraction can have far-reaching effects on the functioning of the marine ecosystems, which must be clarified before commercial activity can be considered. “An improved appreciation of the risks associated with emerging maritime industries is essential to avoid uncontrolled development and to ensure good status and stewardship of the marine environment,” emphasizes Laura Kaikkonen.

The thesis summary can be downloaded from the University of Helsinki’s publication archive Helda.