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New Developments in Manganese Module Prospects, with Emphasis on the Australasian Region


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Author Exon NF, Cronan DS and Colwell JB


Manganese nodules cover great areas of deep
ocean floor far from land, and have long been
considered a major potential resource of nickel,
copper, cobalt and perhaps manganese. A decade
ago there was a period of intense evaluation of
nodule fields, especially those lying between the
Clarion and Clipperton Fracture Zones in
international waters southeast of Hawaii. There,
nodules are abundant and of high grade (average
of 2.4% Ni+Cu+Co). The evaluation activity has
since declined, but a recent agreement on lease
boundaries among all interested parties may lead
to a resurgence of work. Indeed, French and
Japanese groups have pushed ahead with field and
economic assessments.
The Southwest Pacific, where there are large
nodule fields in the waters of the Cook Islands
and Kiribati, has seen considerable assessment of
resources in the last ten years, especially
through a major field programme of the Japanese
Metal Mining Agency. The best prospect appears
to be in the South Penrhyn Basin, in Cook Islands
waters, where nodules are very abundant but of
only moderate grade (1% Ni+Cu+Co). Using a
cut-off of 5 kg of wet nodules per m2, Cronan
(1989) and Cronan et al. (1989) have estimated
the total resource to be a huge 110 million
tonnes of Ni+Cu+Co.