History is filled with attempts to collect valuable minerals from the seafloor. In the 1970s, several mining consortia invested about a billion dollars (2017 dollars) to prove that polymetallic nodules could be harvested from the deep seafloor of the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone in the mid-Pacific Ocean. While these projects never made it into production due to poor economics at the time for the primary metals in the nodules, they did demonstrate the viability of harvesting materials from the deep seabed even using the era’s technology. Subsequent technological advancements coupled with increased metals demand and prices has led to renewed interest in recovering nodules from the seafloor.
Ocean Minerals’ process leverages the work of the nodule mining pioneers and integrates today’s state of the art technology. Our system comprises a pipe lowered to near the seafloor, connected to remotely controlled vehicles that navigate the seafloor mine site to harvest nodules. Nodules are collected, screened, separated and concentrated for transfer to the production vessel as a seawater/nodule slurry via the lift pipe. Another pipe adjoining the lift pipe is used to return water back to the seafloor.
The nodules are transferred from the production vessel to transport vessels which carry the nodules to a shore-based processing site, where the valuable metals are extracted and sold on the metal markets.