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Deep Ocean Mining






The DRT Team has a strong multi-disciplinary legacy in deep ocean mining going back to pioneering work in the 1970s.  The current team includes geologists, ocean engineers, process engineers and environmental scientists with experience in deep sea mining.  We are capable of performing a broad range of services from concept and feasibility studies to equipment design and test (on land or sea) to full FEED engineering. We are presently engaged in a multi-year cooperative research project into the seabed recovery of rare earth elements under sponsorship of the U S Army Research Laboratory. We have recently developed a comprehensive parametric cost model which may be used to evaluate the economic viability of extracting minerals from various deep sea resources.



Dr. Halkyard was the lead ocean engineer for the Kennecott Manganese Nodule Consortium (KCON) from 1972 – 1980 which successfully developed and tested nodule collectors in 5000 m water depths, and was the chief architect for the development of an efficient airlift system.  Dr. Halkyard was also the lead investigator for defining mining systems for ferro-manganese crust mining unsponsored by the U S Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service in the 1980s. 

Figure 1 Concept for Manganese Crust Miner (Halkyard, 1985)

David Felix was KCONs chief exploration geologist and responsible for finding, mapping and resource assessment for manganese nodule deposits in the CCZ of the north equatorial Pacific. Mr. Felix was responsible for compilation of material which lead to the successful licensing of area USA-4 under the U S Deep Sea Bed Hard Minerals Act.


Dr. Jagdish (Jay) Agarwal led the Kennecott Copper manganese nodule process team which lead to the development of the patented Cuprion process for nodules. This process is still considered one of the leading candidates for eventual use in a nodule project.


Richard Petters was principal engineer responsible for collectors for the highly successful pilot mining tests conducted by the Ocean Management Consortium (International Nickel Company) in 1977.  His responsibilities included nodule collector concept design, detailing, expediting of fabrication work and preparation, testing and operation of equipment during the ocean mining test program. 


Eric Jackson served as project manager for Placer Dome, Inc. responsible for development of mining systems for recovery of seafloor massive sulphides from what is now Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 deposit.  He was responsible for concept development, subsea excavator in-situ testing and multiphase pump testing. Over the past several years he has led Cellula Corporation to be a leader in the design, fabrication and operation of subsea robotic drills for hard rock exploration.

Figure 2 KCON Collector Test

Figure 3 OMI Pilot Mining Test Vessel

Laurie Meyer is Principal Investigator for a multi-year multi-million dollar cooperative R&D Project into the seabed recovery of rare earth elements.  This project was awarded to DRT by the U S Army Research Laboratory and involves full engagement of the DRT team in all aspects of this endeavor: exploration, mining, processing (at sea), environmental and regulatory issues and scale-up/economic assessment. Part of this effort includes the development of a parametric cost/economic model for deep sea mining that could be applied to evaluate any prospective deep ocean resource.


Research and Development

DRT conducts internal research to continually improve deep ocean mining technology. This includes research on airlift flow and optimization including a proprietary program for optimizing an airlift system. DRT has also developed an improved method for mining of SMS, Crusts and other seafloor hard rock deposits. The patented “Vertical Mining System” uses a subsea hydromill, vertical riser or cable and seafloor anchors to control an excavating operation without the need for a heavy seafloor vehicle to support cutter heads.


Figure 4 Vertical Mining System



Halkyard, J. (1985) “Technology for mining cobalt rich manganese crusts from seamounts”, Proceedings IEEE Oceans ’85   Conference, pp. 352-374, San Diego


Doyle, R and Halkyard J (2007) “Large Scale Airlift Experiments for Application to Deep Ocean Mining”, Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering, OMAE 2007, San Diego


Halkyard, J E (1979) “Deep Ocean Mining for Manganese Nodules”, The Institute for Physics, Physics in Technology, V. 10


Halkyard, John E (1980) “Ore Handling and Transfer at Sea”, Transactions Marine Technology Society


Halkyard, John E (1982) “Ocean Engineering Challenges in Deep-Sea Mining”, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Spring Meeting/STAR Symposium, Honolulu


Williamson, M. E. and Petters, Richard (1987) “Hard rock sampling with a portable deepsea coring drill”, Proceedings Oceans ’87, p. 1041-1046


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