ABSTRACT:

Metal market prices drastically changed from 2002. Not only the price of iron but also the ones of copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese quickly rose in the market. Economic growths of Asian countries, especially China, have induced the situation. Results of economic validation analyses of Japan's nodule, crust, and Kuroko-type SMS mining using updated economic parameters in 2004 are presented. Possibility of copper shortage is introduced. The role of deep-sea mineral resources for the problem is discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Manganese nodules on deep ocean floor and cobalt-rich manganese crusts on ocean seamounts have received attention as future resources for commercial exploitation of copper, nickel, cobalt, and manganese, due to their vast distribution and relatively higher metal concentration since 1970s (Andrews and Friedrich, 1979; Manheim, 1986). The R&D for manganese nodule development has been studied during the last thirty years by the international consortium (Welling, 1981; Bath, 1989) and several nations (Charles et al., 1990; Yang and Wang, 1997; Yamada and Yamazaki, 1998; Muthunayagam and Das, 1999). On the other hand, though some efforts have succeeded to extend selective technologies for subsystems to recover cobaltrich manganese crusts (Halkyard, 1985; DOMA, 1998) and to clarify the geotechnical and distribution characteristics (Yamazaki et al., 1990; Yamazaki et al., 1994; Yamazaki et al, 1995), the mining feasibility of the crusts has been only technically discussed in a few reports (Hawaii DPED, 1987; Yamazaki et al., 1995). Insufficient information available for the crusts was the reason. However, an economic evaluation model, which is for examining and comparing the economic potentials of manganese nodule and cobalt-rich manganese crust mining ventures with an equivalent production scale at 2,500 t/y of cobalt metal, was developed by the authors and some preliminary results were reported (Yamazaki et al. 2002; Park and Yamazaki, 2005).

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