Policy ForumECONOMIC GEOLOGY

Lessons Learned from Deep-Sea Mining

Science  28 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5479, pp. 551-553
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5479.551

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Summary

The first attempt to exploit deep-sea manganese nodules ended in failure as a result of the collapse of world metal prices, the onerous provisions imposed by the U. N. Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the overoptimistic assumptions about the viability of nodule mining. Attention then focused on cobalt-rich manganese crusts from seamounts. Since the mid-1980s, a number of new players have committed themselves to long-term programs to establish the viability of mining deep-sea manganese nodules. These programs require heavy subsidy by host governments. Gold-rich submarine hydrothermal deposits located at convergent plate margins are now emerging as a more promising prospect for mining than deep-sea manganese deposits.