Assessment of the mineral resource potential of atlantic ferromanganese crusts based on their growth history, microstructure, and texture

Yeo, Isobel A. and Dobson, Kate and Josso, Pierre and Pearce, Richard B. and Howarth, Sarah A. and Lusty, Paul A. J. and Le Bas, Tim P. and Murton, Bramley J. (2018) Assessment of the mineral resource potential of atlantic ferromanganese crusts based on their growth history, microstructure, and texture. Minerals, 8 (8). 327. ISSN 2075-163X

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    Abstract

    The decarbonisation of our energy supply is reliant on new technologies that are raw material intensive and will require a significant increase in the production of metals to sustain them. Ferromanganese (FeMn) crusts are seafloor precipitates, enriched in metals such as cobalt and tellurium, both of which have a predicted future demand above current production rates. In this study, we investigate the texture and composition of FeMn crusts on Tropic Seamount, a typical Atlantic guyot off the coast of western Africa, as a basis for assessing the future mineral resource potential of Atlantic Seamounts. The majority of the summit is flat and covered by FeMn crusts with average thicknesses of 3–4 cm. The crusts are characterized by two dominant textures consisting of either massive pillared growth or more chaotic, cuspate sections of FeMn oxides, with an increased proportion of detrital and organic material. The Fe, Mn, and Co contents in the FeMn oxide layers are not affected by texture. However, detrital material and bioclasts can form about 50% of cuspate areas, and the dilution effect of this entrained material considerably reduces the Fe, Mn, and Co concentrations if the bulk samples are analyzed. Whilst Tropic Seamount meets many of the prerequisites for a crust mining area, the thickness of the crusts and their average metal composition means extraction is unlikely to be viable in the near future. The ability to exploit more difficult terrains or multiple, closely spaced edifices would make economic feasibility more likely.