The Norwegian Research Council has funded a project to explore the resource potential of seabed mining off the country’s coast. MarMine is the first comprehensive research program of its kind in Norway and combines the expertise of 13 companies and research institutions.
The 25 million NOK ($2.8 million) project will conduct an exploratory and sampling cruise to selected areas of the Norwegian part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to obtain geological, mineral, environmental and biological samples. The recovery potential of seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) ore will be assessed along with the technology required to process it.
The team will deliver a concept for mining and exploitation of the studied deposits based on the assessment of the rock’s mechanical and mineralogical properties. It will also conduct an ecological baseline study and eco-toxicological tests to assess environmental impact of the mining to support guidelines and best available practices.
An exploration cruise is planned in the third quarter this year and will run for approximately four weeks. The work will involve sampling using a remotely operated underwater vehicle.
In a 2013 pre-project, estimations indicated that the region could contain as much as NOK 1,000 billion ($110 billion) worth of minerals and metals. Specific areas along the MAR were pinpointed as promising for discovery of new sulfide deposits.
Around 6.4 million tons of copper metal in addition to zinc (6.5 million tons), gold (170 tons), and silver (9,901 tons) have been estimated to be present in the area. However, due to the uncertainty of data gathered to date, there could be as much as 20 million tons of copper metal, 21 million tons of zinc, 652 tons of gold and 32,883 tons of silver.
The project is being coordinated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and other participants include Nordic Ocean Resources, Ecotone, Kongberg Maritime, Statoil and DNV GL.
“We are very enthusiastic about the broad participation from industrial companies in MarMine. It is a unique project which will lead us to new frontiers of knowledge,” says Associate Professor Kurt Aasly, Project Manager for MarMine.
CEO of Nordic Ocean Resources, Ivar S. Fossum, said: “We expect that MarMine will bring significant and valuable information about the future potential of seabed minerals in Norwegian waters. It will further provide base knowledge on how to develop this as a new business segment on a global basis.”
The company says that interest in marine mineral resources has increased strongly over the last few years, and a race to secure prospective exploration areas has started among countries and certain industrial companies. The Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an interesting area for finding new seabed mineral deposits. In addition, the Norwegian oil and gas industry has developed advanced technology for subsea operations which could be applicable also for mineral exploration.