The eventual mining of seafloor massive sulphides (SMS), also known as Polymetallic Sulphides, will depend on a number of engineering, economic and legislative factors. By examining the requirements for land based mining and extrapolating these requirements to the potential SMS mining, a path to the commercialisation of the SMS mining industry can be staked out. This paper discusses the various steps involved in the feasibility analysis of land based mining and applies them to the current state of SMS mining in order to determine the direction for future work within the SMS mining industry.


The University of New South Wales' Mining Research Centre (UMRC) has been investigating mining Seafloor Massive Sulphides (SMS) since 1999 and currently has three undergraduate engineering theses and two PhD theses working on various aspects of SMS mining. UMRC has close links to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and has participated in two cruises led by the CSIRO. The Australian mining industry has a long history of advancing mining and mineral processing techniques and SMS mining is no exception. Australia has a very active interest in the area of SMS mining with two Australian based companies holding exploration leases for deposits in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ's) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand (NZ) as well as the world leading work being conducted by the CSIRO Division of Exploration and Mining's Modern Ore Forming Processes group. Keeping in mind that no SMS mining venture is currently in operation, this paper will discuss the probable path to commercialisation for mining SMS deposits, focusing on the comparison between current land-based (terrestrial) mining requirements and the expected requirements for the marine mining of these deposits. Key knowledge gaps will be identified and potential paths to bridge this gaps will be discussed.

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