Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gold And Metal Exploration In The Deep Sea

The recent interest in metal sulphide deposits localized around deep sea hydrothermal vents has been nicely summarized in an article in the New York Times.

Gold and copper are the main metals of interest along with silver, zinc and cobalt. The deposits are not randomly distributed on the sea floor but are near undersea volcanic activity with the Pacific areas along Papua New Guinea and Fiji being of special interest.

Years ago as a student I had visited the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India. At that time the thrust of research was on the origin and distribution of manganese nodules which could be found in several zones in the Indian ocean. That never became a commercial venture due to probably the low concentration of the nodules and the high costs of extraction.

These new ventures though are going to be operating on a gigantic scale:

...Last year, Nautilus won a 20-year lease to mine a rich deposit in the Bismarck Sea, in the southwestern Pacific. The mounds are a mile down. The company says the site holds about 10 tons of gold and 125,000 tons of copper.

Nautilus plans to start mining next year but also cites possible delays. It is building robots up to 25 feet tall that are to collect sulfides and pump them to the surface. Barges are then to carry the seabed minerals to Rabaul, a Papua New Guinea port some 30 miles away.

Robots 25 feet tall and maybe even taller in the future.

Hollywood won't be far behind..


  1. Thanks for the article - interesting stuff. I met a surprising number of mining geologists in the Solomon Islands... They are basically looking for the same culprits - gold, copper, and silver.

  2. yeah.. i think many of these island nations are in for changes in their economy and perhaps political alliances too..