Deep Sea Mining

Resources and references on the subsea and deep sea mining industry.

Objective:

Provide accurate and authoritative information on Subsea Minerals and Deep Sea Mining

Recent Articles

Current Activity

There are plans to study, measure, and harvest seabed minerals in various locations around the globe.
World map of harvesting activity

Types of Seabed Deposits

3 broad categories of seabed deposits are currently being explored or collected:

Polymetallic Nodules   

Polymetallic nodules on the seafloor

Polymetallic Nodules form on the vast, sediment-covered, abyssal plains of the global ocean at depths of around 6000m.

They primarily consist of metals such as nickel, cobalt, copper, titanium, and rare earth elements.

Nodules are typically densely packed across vast areas of the ocean floor, presenting a huge tonnage of potential minerals.

Seafloor Sulphides

Sulphide deposits from a hydrothermal vent

Seafloor Massive Sulphides are accumulated "heaps" of minerals comprising sulphides and various metals.

Deposits are typically caused by magmatic activity creating geothermal vents, and they are typically found at depths below 800m.

Cobalt-Rich Crusts

Cobalt crust on the seabed

Cobalt-rich Crusts are typically found at depths between 800 and 2,500m on the sides of underwater mountain ranges and seamounts.

Crusts are formed by minerals precipitating out of seawater to form a layer, or crust, on rocky surfaces.

They usually contain manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, platinum, and rare earth elements.

Harvesting Methods

Various harvesting methods are being developed. These use different collection methods, and have different advantages and disadvantages.
Nodule collector with RALS

Hydraulic Collector

Seabed collector hydraulically gathers nodules and returns them to surface via a riser.

Hydraulic Collectors travel along the seabed using hydraulic methods to gather nodules that lie in their path. Nodules are separated from any sediment that is also collected, and these nodules are transferred to a gathering plant for lift to surface.

The Production Support Vessel uses a Riser Artifical Lift System (RALS) to lift the collected nodules to the surface, where they are separated from the seawater using mechanical or centrifugal methods.

Nodules are typically stored in the bulk ore holds of the Production Support Vessel, before being offloaded to a Bulk Carrier for shipment to a processing / refining facility.

This method of collection typically requires larger equipment and more capital-intensive operations, but can rapidly process vast areas of minerals at modest cost.

You can read more about how subsea mining and collectors work.

Collector Swarm

A swarm of small robot collectors use picker arms to collect nodules, then surface autonomously.

Collector Swarms consist of various smaller, AI-driven vehicles that autonomously descend to the seabed, select and pick nodules using image recognition and grabber arms, and then return to the surface.

This method of collection is primarily pioneered by Impossible Metals, and has not yet see large-scale deployment and production.

Collector Swarms potentially reduce the amount of impact to the seabed, as they can be programmed to selectively avoid flora and fauna. However, they require multiple simultaneously operating autonomous vehicles, causing disturbance across all depths of the ocean due to frequent ascent and descent.

Automated collector swarm

Subsea Data

One of the largest and most accessible sources of subsea data, including biological, CTD, bathymetric, and mineral abundance data.

Interactive Data

Easily Explore and Visualize Subsea Data

Explore and visualize various subsea datasets via our interactive 2-D map and 3-D visualizers.
Correlate subsea data with cruises, license holders and data acquisition periods, or just browse license holders and mineral resources.

Visualize Subsea Data

Vast & Accessible

Search and Filter Thousands of Docs

Quickly and easily search, filter and select data from thousands of documents and datasets, including subsea mineral, biological, bathymetry, cruise and CTD data.
Download datasets, or open or compare them via our data analysis tools.

Explore Subsea Data & Documents
Data Samples
Biological Results
Searchable Documents
Contractors

Technical Articles

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Subsea Minerals in Pacific Island EEZs

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Subsea minerals have been sampled in the EEZs of many Pacific Nations, indicating that deep-sea mining industries may be possible in many different states.

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Developing a Subsea Mineral Licence Regime

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An overview of how nations can successfully develop a subsea mineral licence regime, based upon observations of the Cook Islands

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Expert Series: Andrew Lipman on Vessel Classifications, STARS and DSM in China

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Andrew Lipman is the Director of Subsea Mining for the American Bureau of Shipping. He talks about DSM activity in China, STARS, and the need for a regulatory body.

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Projections of Polymetallic Nodule Metal Production

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Based upon publicly available exploration plans, we estimated when polymetallic nodule mine sites are likely to start production, and consequently estimated likely metal production

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STARS; the Missing Link in DSM Supply Chain

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One critical factor in deep-sea mining is the transportation of nodules from the mine-site to onshore refineries. We discuss STARS vessels, and how this new class of bulk carrier is needed for successful operations.

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Cook Islands Bathymetry

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The Cook Islands has tremendous resources of polymetallic nodules and fascinating bathymetry. This 3D model shows the Cook Islands, bathymetry data, and the license areas.

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Ayn Rand interviews Hank Gruberson

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In an exclusive interview, Ayn Rand talks to Hank Gruberson about his exploits in deep sea mining

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Expert Series: Keith Franklin on Solwara-1 SMS & Learnings for Norway

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Keith has over 50 years of experience in subsea operations, including time spent designing, manufacturing and testing subsea mining systems for mining Seabed Massive Sulphides at Solwara-1 in Papua New Guinea. Keith talks about his experiences and learnings for the Norwegian sector.

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Discussion

A range of arguments have been put forward supporting, opposing, and calling for more scientific research into Deep Sea Mining.

Advocates

Advocates of Deep Sea Mining point to the need to decarbonise transportation by moving to battery-powered electric cars, trucks and buses. Copper, Nickel and other metals for battery production are in short supply, and growing demand outstrips supply. Deep Sea Mining offers a low-impact means to supply these metals, which does not require the removal of vast amount of top soil and habitat.

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Scientists

Scientists point to the need to clearly understand the impact of Deep Sea Mining operations on the deep sea ecosystem, and to make decisions based upon rigorous scientific investigation, analyis and discourse. The nature of the deep sea means that scientific research is often incredibly expensive and slow, which further complicates decision-making.

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Critics

Critics of deep sea mining point to the scale of the impact of Deep Sea Mining and our lack of understanding of this diverse ecosystem. Deep Sea Mining operations will cover vast areas of ocean seabed, with potentially huge impact. This is further complicated by our relative lack of understanding of the deep sea, and difficulties in intervening.

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Industry Bodies

The deep sea mining industry is represented by a number of active bodies, authorities and conferences:

Industry Participants

Many companies are active in subsea and deep sea mining, and you can find out more information here

Supporting the Industry

We provide services to the Deep Sea Mining industry:
1.

Consulting

Short and long-term consulting engagements with operators and investors

2.

Business Development

Technical consulting for business development, JVs, partnerships and contractor management

3.

Financing

We have deep connections with investors in the minerals and mining industries

Connect with us directly