Pandemic recovery packages for some countries have driven the demand for commodities such as lithium, iron ore and copper even higher. With the demand for metals needed for the clean energy transition and electrification increasing, many companies are thinking about venturing into ocean mining, a virtually unexplored market. Research has shown that the sea floor is abundant in various metals, with reserves estimated to be worth more than $16 trillion.
Where is ocean mining expected to occur?
Research has found that the Clarion Clipperton Zone, located between Mexico and Hawaii in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, has the most minerals. About 20 global mining companies have contracts to explore this region, which spans more than 5,000 km.
The majority of the metals found in the region are rock-like, potato-sized polymetallic nodules. The nodules, which are millions of years old, slowly expand around the core of rock, bone or shell to grow or absorb minerals from the sea water.
Estimations show that some 21 billion tons of polymetallic nodules exist, resting on the ocean floor in the Clarion Clipperton Zone. These nodules include some 270 million nickel tons, 94,000 cobalt tons, 226 million copper tons and 6 billion manganese tons.
Ferromanganese crusts, which are rich in cobalt, can be found on the sides of sea mounts and underwater mountain ranges. These crusts are also known to form over millions of years, with about 60% being found in the Pacific.
In addition to this, polymetallic sulfide deposits that are formed after sea water enters volcanic rocks are also found near tectonic plate boundaries on the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
So how does seabed mining work?
Plans show that the extraction of metals from the ocean floor is expected to involve either cutting, which is used for crusts and huge sulfides; modified dredging, which will be used for polymetallic nodules; or a transportation mode, which may involve transporting the material to the surface using a basket system or as a slurry.
The material that bears the mineral will then be cleaned and dewatered during processing, before being transported to shore for further processing, where the target metals will be extracted.
Thus far, nearly 30 exploration contracts in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean have been approved by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The contracts cover 1.3 million km2 of the ocean floor in total.
It is interesting to imagine how the operations of mining companies such as Asia Broadband Inc. (OTC: AABB) would radically evolve if these companies had access to the vast resources currently sitting on the seabed.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Asia Broadband Inc. (OTC: AABB) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/AABB
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