Manganese nodules in sight of the researchers

Deepwater resources could secure future non-ferrous metal supplies

Manganese nodules BGR
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Manganese nodules of the deep sea are considered to be important raw material suppliers of the future because of their many valuable metals. Although a large-scale harvest is still utopian today, this could change rapidly if the world market price for such commodities continues to rise. In order to further explore the manganese nodules, the Federal Republic of Germany signed an agreement with the International Seabed Authority of the United Nations (IMF) on July 19, 2006, which assures Germany a 15, 000-square-kilometer "claim" in the Pacific.

The license area is larger than Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein together and divided into two individual fields. They lie in the so-called Manganknollen belt, which extends north of the equator from Mexico to beyond Hawaii. There, the seabed in 4, 000 to 5, 000 meters of water is densely covered by black-brown, only a few centimeters large manganese tubers.

In addition to manganese and iron compounds, they also contain the valuable non-ferrous metals copper, nickel and cobalt. The total amount of manganese nodules present in the 'tuber belt' is estimated at almost two billion tons, with a share of non-ferrous metals of around 50 million tons.

Secure future supply of raw materials

The IMB welcomes the German application for exploration of manganese nodules in the Pacific. Secretary-General Satya Nandan said: "The conclusion of the agreement marks an important milestone in the exploration of sub-marine resources under the UN's Law of the Sea. Germany will become IMB's eighth licensee in international waters."

Location of the two German license areas in the Pacific. © BGR

Already in the 1970s, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), various industrial consortia led by PREUSSAG and national marine research institutes had intensively investigated the manganese nodule belt in the central Pacific. However, exploration was halted in the 1980s due to falling demand in the commodities market. display

"The resumption of the investigations by the BGR is a measure of strategic provision for the future, " says Professor Bernhard Stribrny, President of BGR. "By timely exploration of new, so far unused sources of raw materials, we want to make an important contribution to the future supply of raw materials of our country."

(BGR, 21.07.2006 - DLO)