Abstract

This paper reviews and discusses some important design and position-control parameters and issues of the deep seafloor nodule collector-miners of a few consortia, including the subsystems that the international consortia had developed since the 1970s. It includes the OMCO's full-scale tests of design, deployment, and touchdown of its self-propelled, remote-controlled miner on the 16,000-ft-deep seafloor.

First, the paper revisits major technological activities from past research/development, design, and tests by the four international ocean mining consortia in the '70s, and proposes baseline design parameters and issues in the development of commercial manganese nodule mining systems from the deep seabed in the 2,000–6,000-m depth range. Among the four consortia, the Ocean Minerals Co. (OMCO)/Lockheed reported the two full-scale tests and concurrent development of a commercial deep-ocean mining system and technology of automatic ship-pipe-buffer-link-control with a self-propelled, automatic track-keeping miner or mining vehicle.

The commercial mining system incorporates more recent computer-controlled automatic position or track-keeping control operation simulations, as well as the miner speed control accounting for varying seafloor geotechnical properties and nodule abundance distribution for the integrated system of ship-pipe-miner subsystems and design and control operation in a series of papers.

Introduction and Technical Issues

While in the early '70s, 300-ft (91 m) water depth was treated as "deep water," the goal of the OMCO-Lockheed commercial mining system and technology development in 1974 was to develop an 18,000-ft deep-ocean technology in five years. It was a huge challenge. The team and management looked at two choices: (1) an incremental step-by-step technology improvement approach, eventually reaching 18,000 ft (5,487 m); (2) a direct approach, with risks, to develop an 18,000-ft deep ocean technology.

The OMCO-Lockheed's commercial deep-ocean nodule mining system and technology had been developed with advanced system integration, design, and track-keeping control simulation software from 1974-1980 at Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., Inc. – Ocean Mining Program; the automatic track-keeping control of a 300,000-ton ship and seafloor miner control subsystem was developed jointly with TNO, the Netherlands. Full at-sea tests with Glomar Explorer (Fig. 1) were executed independently.

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