ABSTRACT:

Hydrothermal deposits on deep-sea floor are expected to be potential metal resources for the future demands. Recently, Korea was granted prospecting licences for the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Kingdom of Tonga and is undertaking exploration for hydrothermal metal deposits on the deepsea floor. The Korean Deep Seabed Mining Group (KDSMG), which consists of four Korean companies involved in the marine technologies, oil and gas shipping, and smelter industries, has conducted research to evaluate the area's resource potential in cooperation with the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM) of Korea. This paper presents results of a feasibility study for the commercial development of seafloor hydrothermal deposits, and some exploration results performed on Tonga Arc area with evidence for newly discovered hydrothermal vents.

INTRODUCTION

Seafloor hydrothermal deposits have the potential to meet future metal demands for gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and lead (Pb) (Haymon and Kastner, 1981; Sillitoe, 1982; Hekinian and Bideau, 1985; Batiza, 1985; Scott, 1985; Iizasa et al., 1999). Since the late 1980s, hydrothermal deposits have been discovered in back-arc basins and oceanic island-arc areas (Halbach et al., 1989; Eulcia and Escartn, 1999). Hydrothermal vent in back-arc spreading center are known from the Mariana Trough, Andaman Sea, Manus Basin, Woodlark Basin, North Fiji Basin and Lau Basin (Malahoff, 1981; Rona, 1985; Fouquet et al., 1991; Bendel et al., 1993; Sarata and Matsumoto, 1999; Kia and Lasark, 1999). The high Au and Ag contents of seafloor hydrothermal deposits have spurred interest in their commercial development, and several national and private companies have undertaken mining feasibility study (Malnic, 2001). Recently, the Southwest Pacific was especially targeted, it was known that commercial sulfide projects would make a progress by a private company (Fig. 1).

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