The E-Tech element potential of submarine ferromanganese deposits
Despite occurring in extreme environments, seafloor mineral deposits are becoming increasingly attractive as a future resources. Ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) deposits occur throughout the global ocean basins including abyssal plains (as nodules) and on hard rock substrates such as seamounts, plateaus and ridges (as FeMn-crusts). Recent estimates of the extent of FeMn-crusts have identified a prospective area of seafloor of 6.35 million km2 containing about 0.2 trillion tonnes of Fe-Mn oxide and associated metals. Most importantly, FeMn-crusts contain significant quantities of E- tech elements required for high technology applications such as: Co, Te, REE, Nb, PGM, Bi, W, Mo and Ti. Many of these elements are enriched by factors of between 100 and 10,000 over average continental crust. While much work has focused on the regional scale (ocean basin) processes and occurrences of FeMn-deposits, little work has been done to understand the local-scale (seamount) processes that control their concentration and composition.
Our proposal is to identify the local scale controls on the abundance and grade of ferromanganese submarine deposits. We require up to 46 days of ship-time to conduct AUV and ROV operations in the North East Atlantic on the Madiera-Torres Rise. In addition, we aim to deploy an ROV- deployed drill and cutter to sample the crusts and assess their composition.
The programme will form part of the NERC Security of Supply Strategic Research Programme for which this SME is accompanied by a full RP proposal with a deadline of July 17th 2014.