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Manganese nodules

January 1, 2014

The existence of manganese (Mn) nodules (Figure 1) has been known since the late 1800s when they were collected during the Challenger expedition of 1873–1876. However, it was not until after WWII that nodules were further studied in detail for their ability to adsorb metals from seawater. Many of the early studies did not distinguish Mn nodules from Mn crusts. Economic interest in Mn nodules began in the late 1950s and early 1960s when John Mero finished his Ph.D. thesis on this subject, which was published in the journal Economic Geology (Mero, 1962) and later as a book (Mero, 1965). By the mid-1970s, large consortia had formed to search for and mine Mn nodules that occur between the Clarion and Clipperton fracture zones (CCZ) in the NE Pacific (Figure 2). This is still the area considered of greatest economic potential in the global ocean because of high nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), and Mn contents and the dense distribution of nodules in the area. While the mining of nodules was fully expected to begin in the late 1970s or early 1980s, this never occurred due to a downturn in the price of metals on the global market. Since then, many research cruises have been undertaken to study the CCZ nodules, and now 15 contracts for exploration sites have been given or are pending by the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Many books and science journal articles have been published summarizing the early work (e.g., Baturin, 1988; Halbach et al., 1988), and research has continued to the present day (e.g., ISA, 1999; ISA, 2010). Although the initial attraction for nodules was their high Ni, Cu, and Mn contents, subsequent work has shown that nodules host large quantities of other critical metals needed for high-tech, green-tech, and energy applications (Hein et al., 2013; Hein and Koschinsky, 2014).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Manganese nodules
Authors James R. Hein
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70047189
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center