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The future of deep sea mining

From 2009 to 2012, Aker Wirth, in cooperation with the BGR (German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources), developed a concept for the deep sea mining of manganese nodules, which it also examined by means of a profitability analysis. The study was undertaken for the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Innovative concept for manganese nodules developed by Aker Wirth

From 2009 to 2012, Aker Wirth, in cooperation with the BGR (German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources), developed a concept for the deep sea mining of manganese nodules, which it also examined by means of a profitability analysis. The study was undertaken for the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

The increasing scarcity of resources coupled with the continuous rise in resource prices drive the search for new raw material deposits. As a result, the deep sea is coming increasingly under the spotlight.

At depths of over 1000 m, large deposits of ores, and precious and high-tech metals, such as manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper and gold, along with rare earths (which are important for the high-tech industry), can be found.

The extreme deep-sea conditions – enormous water pressure, ice-cold temperatures and complete darkness – present huge financial and technical challenges to the mining industry when extracting these materials. Aker Wirth has recognised the potential of this important future market early on and advances the development of relevant products.

The newly-developed concept has been designed for the mining of manganese nodules from water depths of up to 6000 m. The extensive system consists of two manganese nodule collectors, a transport system for conveying the material, and a specially-designed production vessel.

Steffen Knodt, Vice President of Technology & Innovation at Aker Wirth, explained: “To ensure efficient mining, a continuous transportation of raw material from the collectors via rises that are several kilometres in length is required. At such water depths, this places considerable demands on the robustness of the single components as well as on the control unit for the complete system.”

In meeting these challenges, Aker Wirth can draw on its many years of experience and expertise as a partner to customers in the mining as well as for the oil and gas industries. For more than 20 years, the company has been successfully supplying drilling systems for the extraction of diamonds from the seabed.

The efficient and environmentally-friendly air-lift technology shall be used to transport the manganese nodules to the drilling vessel. It has proven its worth at Aker Wirth both in diamond mining and in pile foundation drilling. Moreover, the company has demonstrated its capabilities in numerous projects for the exploration of oil and gas reserves at great water depths.

In 2012, Aker Wirth, together with other companies from the industry, conducted a profitability analysis for the complete manganese nodule mining system, with support from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Various economic and ecological conditions for the mining of key raw materials (such as cobalt, nickel and copper) from manganese nodules were analysed.

The study addressed the entire process chain from the collecting of manganese nodules to the transport of materials and right through to land-based processing. The study comes to the conclusion that deep-sea mining is very lucrative, even given the current prices of raw materials and anticipated price developments.

“At present, efforts are being made at an international level to first of all establish the regulations regarding mining of manganese nodules, which will then serve as a basis for the development of mining and transport systems”, concludes Mr Knodt. „As a consequence, the mining of manganese nodules will probably reach an industrial scale in five to ten years’ time.”

 

Concept for deep sea mining of manganese nodules

About Aker Wirth

Aker Wirth is one of the leading equipment suppliers, delivering core components for the oil and gas industry as well as mining and civil construction products for the industry. Since 1895, Aker Wirth has been supporting the establishment of a modern and efficient development of natural resources and infrastructure, promoting growth and improving the standard of living. In 2010 and 2011, Aker Wirth was awarded for an outstanding personnel management and in 2009 and 2011 for innovative products and solutions. Aker Wirth is a subsidiary of Aker Solutions AS, a provider of oilfield products, systems and services for customers for the oil and gas industry world-wide.

Contact

Aker Wirth GmbH | Kölner Str. 71-73 | 41812 Erkelenz | Germany  www.akersolutions.com/akerwirth
Simone Grönemeyer | Manager Communications | P +49 2431 83-459
Email: simone.groenemeyer@akersolutions.com
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