Marine Cobalt Resources

Science  02 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4750, pp. 600-608
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4750.600


Ferromanganese oxides in the open oceans are more enriched in cobalt than any other widely distributed sediments or rocks. Concentrations of cobalt exceed 1 percent in ferromanganese crusts on seamounts, ocean ridges, and other raised areas of the ocean. The cobaltrich crusts may be the slowest growing of any earth material, accumulating one molecular layer every 1 to 3 months. Attention has been drawn to crusts as potential resources because they contain cobalt, manganese, and platinum, three of the four priority strategic metals for the United States. Moreover, unlike abyssal nodules, whose recovery is complicated by their dominant location in international waters, some of the most cobalt-rich crusts occur within the exclusive economic zone of the United States and other nations. Environmental impact statements for crust exploitation are under current development by the Department of the Interior.