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A comprehensive approach for a techno-economic assessment of nodule mining in the deep sea


  • Sebastian Ernst Volkmann

    (RWTH Aachen University)

  • Thomas Kuhn

    (Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR))

  • Felix Lehnen

    (RWTH Aachen University)


Mine planning of land-based mineral deposits follows well-established methods. The deep sea is currently under exploration, but mine planning approaches are still lacking. A spatial planning tool to assess the techno-economic requirements and implications of manganese nodule mining on deep-sea deposits is proposed in this paper. The comprehensive approach has been validated using research findings of the Blue Mining project, which received funding from the European Commission. A part of the German exploration area E1, located in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, Pacific Ocean, serves as a case study area. The approach contributes to a responsible utilization of mineral resources in the deep sea, considering geological, economic and financial as well as technical and operational aspects. The approach may also be applicable for an early-stage assessment of other projects related to spatially distributed mineral resources, e.g., marine phosphate nodules. Furthermore, it could also be helpful for the investigation of the environmental impacts of seafloor manganese nodule mining.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Ernst Volkmann & Thomas Kuhn & Felix Lehnen, 2018. "A comprehensive approach for a techno-economic assessment of nodule mining in the deep sea," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 31(3), pages 319-336, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minecn:v:31:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s13563-018-0143-1
    DOI: 10.1007/s13563-018-0143-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lodge, Michael & Johnson, David & Le Gurun, Gwenaëlle & Wengler, Markus & Weaver, Phil & Gunn, Vikki, 2014. "Seabed mining: International Seabed Authority environmental management plan for the Clarion–Clipperton Zone. A partnership approach," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 66-72.
    2. Ehler, Charles, 2008. "Conclusions: Benefits, lessons learned, and future challenges of marine spatial planning," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 840-843, September.
    3. A. Marvasti, 2000. "Resource Characteristics, Extraction Costs, and Optimal Exploitation of Mineral Resources," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 17(4), pages 395-408, December.
    4. Stelzenmüller, Vanessa & Lee, Janette & South, Andy & Foden, Jo & Rogers, Stuart I., 2013. "Practical tools to support marine spatial planning: A review and some prototype tools," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 214-227.
    5. Johnson, Charles J. & Otto, James M., 1986. "Manganese nodule project economics : Factors relating to the Pacific region," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 17-28, March.
    6. Ardron, Jeff & Gjerde, Kristina & Pullen, Sian & Tilot, Virginie, 2008. "Marine spatial planning in the high seas," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 832-839, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sebastian Ernst Volkmann & Felix Lehnen & Peter A. Kukla, 2019. "Estimating the economics of a mining project on seafloor manganese nodules," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 32(3), pages 287-306, November.

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