Deep ocean mineral resources have for several decades been subjected to technical and economical studies. Recently Norwegian industry has shown a renewed interest in ocean mining. The Norwegian Deep Seabed Mining Group (NDSMG) consists of six major Norwegian organizations involved in the marine survey, shipping and oil and gas industry. The NDSMG has recently conducted a study to evaluate the Cook Islands nodule deposits. An important part of this study was to design and evaluate cost-effective technical solutions for deep ocean mining, based on existing technology and experience from the offshore oil and gas sector. This paper presents some of the results of the study.
Until 1996 it was generally agreed that first generation commercial nodule projects would take place in the Clarion Clipperton area in the Pacific Ocean or in the Central Indian Basin in the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s these areas were especially targeted by scientists, several national programs and industry marine mining consortia such as OMCO, OMI, and OMA (Chung and Tsurusaki, 1994; Lenoble, 1995; Markussen, 2000; Padan, 1990). In 1996, however, it became known that the Bechtel Corporation had carried out a comprehensive technicaleconomical pre-feasibility study of the nodule deposits in the Cook Islands EEZ. The Cook Islands is a small island group in the Southern Pacific (Figure 1). The San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation is the world's largest engineering company. Their comprehensive pre-feasibility study of commercial mining of the nodule deposits in the Cook Islands (Bechtel, 1996), was based on a resource assessment of the deposit carried out by the East-West Center in Hawaii (Clark et.al, 1993). This showed that the nodule density was over 20 kg/m2 which is twice as much as the nodule density in the Clarion Clipperton Area and the Central Indian Basin.