Raw material extraction of the future – which minerals can soon be extracted from the deep sea

The extraction of mineral raw materials from the deep sea is still a pipe dream. In addition to oil and gas extraction from the oceans, the mining of mineral raw materials from the coastal regions of the world’s oceans has long been common practice.

But the fact that economically interesting mineral deposits can also be found deep in the sea has not been a secret for some time. Diverse exploration projects have long existed in all the world’s oceans to track down and explore the most lucrative ones.

But which mineral raw materials can be found deep below the ocean surface in regions where hardly any humans have penetrated so far, and in what form do these precious resources exist in the deep sea?

Three groups of deep-sea mineral resources

The mineral resources found in the deep sea are divided into a total of three groups: Manganese nodules, manganese crusts and massive sulfides. In the near future, their extraction should begin, because the deposits of all three groups contain valuable and important mineral raw materials.

Manganese nodules

Manganese nodules are usually only found at depths of more than 4000 meters. The individual tubers are approximately 1 to 6 centimeters in diameter and are present in all oceans. These tubers have developed in the sale of millions of years in the deep sea and grow extremely slowly.

They consist of manganese and iron oxides and numerous minor metals formed from sediments by contact with seawater and pore water.

Manganese nodules are economically interesting because they contain up to 3 percent copper, nickel and cobalt – mineral raw materials that are extremely valuable, especially for steel refining and the electrical industry.

The largest deposits discovered to date are located in the so-called manganese belt in the northeast Pacific. There, about half of the seabed is covered with manganese nodules.

Manganese crusts

Manganese crusts are manganese-iron oxides deposited on hard rock in the oceans. Investigations have shown that economically interesting deposits can be found in particular at sea depths of 800 to 2500 meters. Around two-thirds of the storage areas are located in the Pacific.

In total, it is now estimated that around 40 billion tons of manganese crusts are present in the world’s oceans. About half of these deposits are considered potentially mineable.

Besides manganese, manganese crusts contain mainly copper, titanium, cobalt, nickel and cerium, which is a rare earth element. In addition, the crusts contain large amounts of trace metals such as tungsten, molybdenum, tellurium and platinum.

Solid sulfides

Massive sulfides occur mainly in areas of volcanic activity at ocean depths up to 3000 meters. There they can form deposits that can reach a diameter of several hundred meters.

Solid sulfides have a high content of the non-ferrous metals copper, zinc and lead and also contain the precious metals gold and silver. In addition, massive sulfides contain indium, bismuth, selenium and germanium, which are particularly valuable for all modern technologies.




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