Elements Covers

Posts by Paul A.J. Lusty

Metal Extraction from Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits

The future extraction of deep-ocean mineral deposits depends on being able to recover the metals in an economic and environmentally sensitive way. Metal production is one of the most energy intensive industrial sectors. The characteristics of some deep-ocean mineral deposits permit them to be readily dissolved and to release their contained metals into solution. Current innovations in hydrometallurgy, including metal leaching with ionic liquids and solvent extraction in non-dispersive phase contactors, demonstrate how metals could potentially be extracted from Fe–Mn deposits with increased energy efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint compared with traditional processing techniques. The importance of biological processes in the formation of deep-ocean Fe–Mn deposits is poorly understood. However, understanding how microorganisms select and deposit metal ions could further enhance targeted extraction of ‘critical’ metals.

Read More

Formation and Occurrence of Ferromanganese Crusts: Earth’s Storehouse for Critical Metals

Marine ferromanganese oxide crusts (Fe–Mn crusts) are potentially important metal resources formed on the seafloor by precipitation of dissolved and colloidal components from ambient seawater onto rocky surfaces. The unique properties and slow growth rates of the crusts promote adsorption of numerous elements from seawater: some, such as Te and Co, reach concentrations rarely encountered elsewhere in nature. Consequently, Fe–Mn crusts are potential sources of metals used in technologies considered essential for the transition to a low-carbon economy. However, the precise distributions and metal concentrations of Fe–Mn crusts at regional and local scales are poorly constrained because of the diversity of geological, oceanographic and chemical processes involved in their formation.

Read More

Deep-Ocean Mineral Deposits: Metal Resources and Windows into Earth Processes

Deep-ocean mineral deposits could make a significant contribution to future raw material supply. Growing metal demand and geopolitics are focussing increasing attention on their resource potential and economic importance. However, accurate assessment of the total amounts of metal and its recoverability are very difficult. Deep-ocean mineral deposits also provide valuable windows through which to study the Earth, including the evolution of seawater and insights into the exchange of heat and chemicals between the crust and the oceans. Exploration for, and potential extraction of, deep-ocean mineral deposits poses many geological, technical, environmental and economic challenges, as well as regulatory and philosophical questions. Great uncertainty exists, and the development and stewardship of these deposits requires an incremental approach, encouraging transparency and scientific and civil societal input to balance the interests of all.

Read More