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Ocean minerals

January 1, 2015

Nearly 71 percent of the Earth is covered by ocean, yet during the entire history of societies, the mineral resources essential for nation building have been acquired solely from the continents. Deep-ocean minerals were discovered over a century ago during the Challenger expedition of 1873—1876, but only relatively recently did programs develop to determine their origin, distribution, and resource potential. Continental margin marine mineral deposits include aggregate, sand, placer minerals, and phosphorite. Aggregate, sand, and placers are detrital minerals that were transported and deposited on the shelf, whereas phosphorite is a chemical sedimentary deposit that formed in place from chemical reactions in the near-surface sediment. Seawater makes up 98.8 percent of the world's surface water and contains every element in the periodic table, mostly in trace concentrations. Fe-Mn crusts are found on rock surfaces of seamounts, ridges, and plateaus as pavements and coatings on talus in areas that remain sediment-free for millions of years.