ABSTRACT:

In this paper, the authors analyse various existing economic studies on the exploitation of manganese nodules. The investment and operating costs of these studies are adjusted to the year 2001 using the US Consumer Price index. The adjusted values are then used to examine the profitability of a potential investment using the net present value method, showing that with 2001 metal prices none of the reported ventures would be economically interesting. New concepts with tremendous research potential are then presented considering processing on the open sea, the use of alternative energies such as wave energy, wind energy and thermal energy conversion.

INTRODUCTION

Since the discovery of the first manganese nodules by M.S. Challenger in 1873, various companies and nations have looked into the possibility to exploit these vast resources. Manganese nodules contain a large amount of manganese (approximately 17%), some copper (0,5%.), some nickel (0,3%) and cobalt (0,3%). These values are arithmetic averages of all known deposits as listed in Thethis (1992) and Korsakov (1987). Further metals are also contained in the nodules, but in such low concentrations, that it is not worth trying to extract these for commercial use. The first step consisted in trying to assess the amount of nodules occurring on the entire planet (Mero, 1965). Then, almost in parallel, methods to harvest the nodules and methods to process the nodules were developed (Köhne, 1974 & 1976, Ecker, 1978, Thetis, 1992, Dörfler, 1995, Schwarz, 1995, 1999, Chung, 1996, Handschuh, 2001) and the process is currently still going on, as no economically viable scheme has been realised so far. The closest man got to realising this undertaking was probably the project by the OMI conglomerate in the beginning of the eighties (Eker, 1978, Flipse, 1981, Schwarz, 1999).

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