Deep sea nodule mining project to harvest battery elements

November 15, 2019 //By Nick Flaherty
The Blue Nodule project is developing a deep sea mining system to harvest metallic nodules from the sea floor with minimum environmental impact
The Blue Nodule project is developing a deep sea mining system to harvest metallic nodules from the sea floor with minimum environmental impact

A team of European researchers are developing a deep sea mining system that can harvest minerals such as nickel, manganese, cobalt and copper from the sea floor.

The Blue Nodules project, part of the European Horizon 2020 research programme, runs until July 2020. It aims to develop a deep sea mining system for the harvesting of the nodules that contain the metals from the sea floor with minimum environmental impact

There are 14 companies and research institutes from 9 European countries working on the project, which is essentially a pipe 5.5km long that can harvest the nodules from the sea floor.

The Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean for example holds more nickel, manganese and cobalt than all land-based reserves combined. Nodules hold higher grades than typical terrestrial deposits and their presence at the seabed surface eases exploration considerably as there is no need for drilling.

Nickel and cobalt are vital for the cathodes of Lithium-ion batteries and high purity manganese is equally important for the cathodes of NMC batteries.

Six powerful pumps, called booster stations, transfer the nodules through a 5.5 km long vertical transport system to the surface vessel. Dutch cable maker DeRegt developed umbilical cables that connect the booster stations and the harvesting system to the vessel’s power supply and allow data transmission.

DeRegt also developed a clamping system that allows the cables to be fixed to the vertical transport system without the need for human interference. The system automatically clamps and de-clamps the umbilicals along the 5.5 km long hose during the launch and recovery of the system.

The umbilicals contain a double steel armour to transfer loads and to protect the electrical and optical components from crushing. Fragile components are placed towards the centre of the cable and for corrosion prevention every single steel wire is jacketed.


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