Deep Ocean Mining:

Actions Needed To Make It Happen

PSAD-77-127: Published: Jun 28, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1978.

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Science and industry have long known that vast amounts of manganese nodules lie on the ocean bottom in most parts of the world. These nodules commonly contain more than 30 mineral elements and are especially rich in nickel, copper, cobalt, and manganese. Mining consortia have spent at least $140 million to develop deep ocean mining technology and will invest $2.1 billion to $3.1 billion to achieve commercial operations.

Two major problems may delay full-scale commercial mining operations: (1) the lack of mining site tenure guaranteed by domestic law or international agreement since assurances of tenure are needed to obtain financing for mining operations; and (2) the lack of a federal environmental impact statement and resulting regulations which could have costly effects on equipment design decisions and operational techniques. No federal agency is primarily responsible for deep ocean mining, and no federal agency has been given the responsibility for preparing an environmental impact statement or environmental regulations. Agency programs and projects for deep ocean mining are fragmented and uncoordinated while needed programs have gone unattended or are behind schedule. Agency officials, industry representatives, and marine scientists generally agree that the federal role in deep ocean mining needs to be clearly defined.

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