Approach

In principle, a deep sea mining undertaking cycle is much alike the sequence of activities in land mining, i.e. project discovery, exploration, resource definition and scoping studies, pre-feasibility study, feasibility study, project approval and financing and implementation. The difference is the nature of the resource and the extreme environment where the entire value chain activities sequence takes place. Effectively, this means that totally different technologies, hardware and operational procedures are required. Blue Mining has adopted the mining project development approach as the backbone for economic, overall technical environmental and legal evaluation. For the scientific and technical approach, Blue Mining has adopted the “Technology Readiness Level (TRL)” methodology. TRL is a measure used to assess the maturity of evolving technologies (devices, materials, components, software, work processes, etc.) during its development and in some cases during early operations.

The obvious starting point for the Scientific and Technological programme is the dredge mining of metals and the offshore Oil and Gas industry. The corresponding technologies contain relevant but no directly useful elements that, without further RTD-work, cannot be adapted and applied in deep sea mining. It is therefore that deep-sea mining technology has to be developed from practically the lowest of the TRL-scale levels.

Concept

The Blue Mining Concept, approach and Scientific & Technological research delineation is depicted in the Figure. On the left, it shows the phases in deep sea mining project development, going from project discovery, to exploration, resource definition and scoping studies, pre-feasibility study, feasibility study, to project approval and financing and finally to implementation. Even for the most advanced deep sea mining projects no professional full scale feasibility study is publicly available. Blue Mining will develop a blueprint for feasibility studies and validate this blueprint via the evaluation of deep sea mining projects of two different resources: (e)SMS and SMnN[1].

A thorough and conclusive feasibility study is a pre-requisite for a mining company before taking the decision to go ahead with the implementation of the project.

Blue Mining’s aim is to develop all key technologies for exploration (discovery and assessment) and for exploitation of deep sea mineral resources up to TRL6, i.e. system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment. Blue Mining will also prepare an exploitation plan for the next phases in the technology and business

 


[1]     (e)SMS: (extinct) seafloor massive sulphides; SMnN: seafloor manganese nodules.

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