The rapidly increasing demand for mineral resources is driving expanding mining activities worldwide. Mining activities generate large quantities of waste called mine tailings that need to be disposed. In several countries, including Norway, tailings are disposed in the sea. During marine tailing disposal large quantities of fine inorganic particles, associated metals and processing chemicals are introduced into the marine environment and can potentially cause significant stress for exposed organisms.
Suboptimal conditions and stress may not lead to the immediate death of exposed organisms, but can affect their energy balance. This means that energy requirements will have to be directed toward maintenance of basic body functions and handling of stress and not toward development, growth and reproduction.
Early life stages of animals, e.g. larval stages of fish and copepods, are particularly vulnerable to stress, since their energy requirements for development and growth are high.
In the DiTail project we will study how exposure to fine tailings will affect marine copepods, fish eggs and fish larvae.
Further, we will develop models based on effect studies to predict the likelihood of exposure to tailings. This will enable us to predict risk for populations of copepods and fish species living in fjords where tailings are disposed.