Nodule distribution characteristics and associated seafloor features: Factors for exploitation of deep-sea Fe-Mn deposits

Sharma, R.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1999
The heterogeneous distributions of nodule sizes, cover-ages and abundances and the variability of their burial und association with sediments and rock outcrops on the seafloor have emerged as crucial parameters in considering the exploitation potential of the manganese nodules in the central part of the Indian Ocean. Nodules with the long axis measuring from 20 and 40 mm (0.8 and 1.6 in.) account for nearly 60% to 70% of those evaluated from photographic and grab-sample data. In addition, 75% of the nodules (by weight) are between 20 and 60 mm (0.8 to 2.4 in.). The distribution of nodules with abundances ranging from 1 to 20 kg/m2 as well as coverages of 1 % to 90% on the seafloor are important considerations in demarcating the potential areas for nodule mining. The mining of areas with higher concentrations of nodules, such as along slopes associated with less sediment, would result in the enhanced recovery of nodules compared to areas with low nodule concentrations, such as in valleys and plains where thick sediment covers occur. The mining head will encounter substrates such as hard rock exposures, either with or without Fe-Mn encrustations, as well as soft sediment layers in the nodule fields. It must be able to collect buried nodules under sediment cover, and it must be able to negotiate uphill and downhill slopes in mining areas. Mapping prior to mining must delineate areas to he avoided and must define locations to be mined. The requirements suggest that the nodule collector must be a dynamic (active) system with sensors to detect areas of potential nodule concentrations, as well as features that are hazardous (or unfavorable) for mining operations.
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