Collecting clues to the geologic history and mineral resources of the Rio Grande Rise, southwest Atlantic Ocean

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USGS scientists James Hein and Kira Mizell participated in a University of São Paulo research cruise to the western Rio Grande Rise, an underwater plateau in international waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil.

A man, wearing hard hat and life jacket, stands on ship deck near door of a shack on the deck.

James Hein monitors dredge operations from the winch shack and explains dredging techniques to the ship's crew. Photo credit: Kira Mizell, USGS

From 28 January to 21 February 2018, participants mapped the seafloor, collected samples, and conducted lab studies to better understand the seafloor topography of the rise, its sedimentary history, and the processes that have formed mineral crusts rich in iron and manganese. These Fe-Mn crusts precipitate slowly from seawater, preserving a chemical history of ocean conditions and incorporating potentially economically important elements such as cobalt, tellurium, and platinum. Hein, who leads the USGS Global Ocean Minerals project, was invited to join the cruise to share his knowledge of the Fe-Mn crusts and techniques for collecting and interpreting them.

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Dredging Up Clues to the Geologic History and Mineral Resources of the Rio Grande Rise, Southwest Atlantic Ocean

USGS scientists focused on finding iron-manganese crusts, whose chemistry reveals how the ocean has changed throughout millennia. The crusts also contain valuable elements like cobalt, molybdenum, and the very rare metals tellurium and platinum, which make them of economic interest.