Deeply unsure about this seabed mining to be honest

The Cook Islands hopes to transform itself into one of the world\’s richest countries within a decade by sending robots to the sea floor to collect minerals that it believes are worth tens of billions of dollars.

Could be, could be.

A new geological survey by Imperial College marine geochemist David Cronan estimates that the Cook Islands\’ 2 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone contains 10bn tonnes of manganese nodules. The nodules, which vary from the size of a potato to that of a dining table, contain manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth minerals used in electronics. The minerals will be mined using robots first developed for underwater warfare and espionage.

Not wholly convinced to be honest.

Manganese is a couple of thousand $ a tonne. And there\’s plenty of it about. The others, I don\’t know the concentrations but I believe that they\’re trace amounts.

It might work but it simply isn\’t true that having metal in rocks is valuable. It depends upon the processing costs to get the metals out of the rocks. And that\’s the bit I\’m unconvinced about.

8 comments on “Deeply unsure about this seabed mining to be honest

  1. Got to be one of the longest running gold rush stories of the lot, isn’t it? I’m sure this was in the Eagle comic in around ’57. Certainly tops “We’re only ten years away from fusion reactors.”

  2. The last time this seabed manganese mining malarkey came up it was a CIA cover story for a project to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the seabed.

    Has anybody lost any submarines lately?

  3. From Wikipedia:
    Those of greatest economic interest contain manganese (27-30%), nickel (1.25-1.5 %), copper (1-1.4 %) and cobalt (0.2-0.25 %). Other constituents include iron (6%), silicon (5%) and aluminium (3%), with lesser amounts of calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, titanium and barium, along with hydrogen and oxygen.

  4. “It depends upon the processing costs to get the metals out of the rocks.”

    Plus the unusual cost of picking the turds off the sea floor.

  5. I’ve just finished a project getting iron sands from the ‘sea floor’ in Fiji. No robots alas, just old fashioned dredging.

    The Cook Islands will stick to selling passports and living on remittances from New Zealand I imagine.

  6. Lets not forget that it is an academic who’s coming out with this. A mate of mine briefly worked for a sea floor mining company out of Brisbane, didn’t stay with them long. All a bit pie-in-the-sky I think.

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