ABSTRACT:

The recent state of technological development in the countries that have joined deep-ocean mining since the '90s is reviewed in terms of readiness for the development of a commercial mining technology. Previous largescale R&D work performed on deep-ocean mining technology and systems is used as a baseline for review. The review includes discussions on most of the technical issues that have been already identified in the literature for manganese nodule production system design. It is likely that more issues remain to be identified and solved. The realization of a costeffective commercial deep-ocean mining system will take much longer than is claimed or predicted. The commercialization of deep-ocean minerals would require a pool of experts, technical innovation and costeffective technology, plus cost- and technology-sharing among the countries and/or companies. More clearly defined guidelines or regulations at the early stages can save time and cost for the system and technological development for commercialization. Deep-ocean mining technology is transferable with minor modification to deep-ocean petroleum drilling and production, as already taking place.

DEEP-OCEAN MINERALS OF INTEREST

Our primary minerals of present interest in the deep seafloor are manganese nodules and cobalt-rich manganese crusts, the former from a depth of 800 to 3,000 m, and the latter from a depth of 3,000 to 6,000 m. Essential metals from the nodules and crusts are for use in steel, aircraft, military equipment, machinery and cutting tools.

PREVIOUS DEVELOPMENTS

One of the greatest technological innovations in ship and deep-ocean technology of this century is the deep-ocean mining system with the Hughes Glomar Explorer

(Fig. 1): A huge "moon pool" (270 ft or 82.3 m long) can be opened and closed in the bottom of the ship hull in the middle of the ocean. Its pipe handling and deployment of 5,000-m-long pipe were automated.

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