Enabling the green economy


SUBSEA MINERAL EXTRACTION

Offshore resources are plentiful with high ore grades. In many cases, these resources are unburied lying on the surface of the seabed. Currently, the International Seabed Authority has put draft legislation in place for mining in international waters. In parallel, some governments have already put in place mining and environmental legislation for their exclusive economic areas.

SMD is no stranger to subsea mineral extraction. In 2007 we were awarded the contract to design and build the world’s first deep-sea mineral recovery vehicles. These three remotely-controlled machines, the largest of which is 300 tonnes, were designed to recover seafloor massive sulphides (SMS).

This massive feat of engineering concluded in 2016 with the delivery of the three vehicles and all the accompanying equipment totalling over 1,000 tonnes.

Why Offshore Mineral Extraction is Essential
  • the grade of land ore and minerals is decreasing on average.
  • THE LAND STRIPPING RATIO AVERAGE IS INCREASING.
  • THE GLOBAL POPULATION CONTINUES TO GROW BRINGING WITH IT A DEMAND FOR MORE MATERIALS.
  • THE RECYCLING, SUBSTITUTION, AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY EFFORTS ARE NOT KEEPING PACE WITH THE DEMAND.
  • THERE IS A HUGE DEMAND FOR NEXT-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES THAT REQUIRE THE MINERALS AND ORES THAT ARE ON THE SEABED.
  • MINERALS SUCH AS COPPER, ZINC, AND COBALT ARE CRUCIAL MATERIALS TO HELP ENABLE THE TRANSITION TO A MORE CLIMATE-NEUTRAL ECONOMY
  • A LOW CARBON FUTURE WILL BE MINERAL INTENSIVE AS CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES REQUIRE MORE MATERIALS THAN FOSSIL FUEL-BASED ELECTRICITY GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES (SOURCE: WORLD BANK)
  • THE TRANSITION TO A CLIMATE-NEUTRAL ECONOMY IS EXPECTED TO GENERATE A DOUBLING OF THE CURRENTLY INSTALLED WIND POWER CAPACITY, FOUR TIMES AS MANY SOLAR PARKS, AND PREDICTED 4000% INCREASE IN THE PRODUCTION LEVELS OF ELECTRIC ROAD VEHICLES BY 2030 (SOURCE: IEA)
  • NEW CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES WILL REQUIRE LARGE INVESTMENTS IN MINERAL-INTENSIVE ELECTRIFIED INFRASTRUCTURE GRIDS (source: World Bank / IEA)

HOW THE FIRST EVER DEEP SEA MINERAL EXTRACTION MACHINES WERE MADE

WHICH RESOURCES ARE ABUNDANT ON THE SEA FLOOR?

POLYMETALLIC SULPHIDES (SMS)

Polymetallic sulphides (SMS); 1,000-2,500m; Hydrothermal vents: Cu (copper), Au (gold), Ag (silver), Zn (zinc) - Also: Antimony, Cadmium, Gallium, Germanium, Indium, Selenium

Polymetallic Nodules

Fe-Mn nodules (Polymetallic Nodules); abyssal sediments; 3,500-5,000m; NOT hydrothermal: Cu (copper), Ni (nickel), Zn (zinc), Mn (manganese), Co (cobalt) - Also: Bismuth, Lithium, Molybdenum, Niobium, Tellurium, Titanium, Tungsten, Yttrium, Zirconium, some REE

Ferromanganese Crusts

• Co-rich Fe-Mn crusts (Ferromanganese Crusts); seamount flanks; 1500-3000m; NOT hydrothermal: Co (cobalt), Ni (nickel), Mn (manganese), Pt (platinum), REE (rare earth element) - Also: Bismuth, Niobium, Molybdenum, Tellurium, Thorium, Zirconium