Undersea mining moving forward: DFI releases world’s first marine NI 43-101

The race to mine the seafloor took another step forward today.

Diamond Fields International said it has completed the world’s first NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate for its Atlantis II sea-floor deposit, located about 115 kilometres from Jeddah in the Red Sea. DFI has been exploring the deposit with joint venture partner Manafa International.

First discovered in 1965, DFI says on its website that the deposit is estimated to contain extensive mineralization of zinc, copper, silver, lead, gold and other metals. About $28 million was spent exploring the deposit in the ’70s, which sampled the first 8.5 metres of sediment, indicating that the mineralization is open at depth and extends over approximately 57 square kilometres.

According to DFI:

A pre pilot test mining study undertaken by Preussag successfully demonstrated that the mineralized mud of the Atlantis II Deeps can be continuously mined and concentrated at sea, using conventional flotation techniques. During test mining operations, 15,000 m3 of sea floor sediments and brines from four test sites in the Atlantis II basin were processed. Metal grades derived from this operation proved to be higher than those predicted by the Preussag resource modeling, with grades varying from 2.51% – 4.91 zinc, 0.47% – 4.91% copper and 59.43 ppm – 111.24 ppm silver (DSF).

The NI 43-101 report announced on Tuesday references historical resource estimates and notes that:

  • The estimated tonnages and grades include both high and low grade areas of the Atlantis II Deeps, of which only the top 8.5 meters of sediment has been sampled and the deposit is therefore open at depth. The average total thickness of the deposit is known to exceed 30 meters.
  • Higher grade copper, zinc and silver mineralization is contained within the South West, West and Eastern sub-basins where metre core intersects of up to 22.47% zinc, 2.05% copper and 338 g/t silver have been obtained.
  • Historic resource estimates reference the presence of significant co-product metal values including manganese, lead, cobalt, cadmium and gold.
DFI CEO Ian Ransome said the company will move forward with JV partner Manafa toward a feasibility study and financing, noting that institutions and funds in Canada, Europe and the Middle East have shown interest in the project.

DFI’s announcement comes amid a spate of other undersea mining-related news this month.

On July 22 Nautilus Minerals (TSX:NUS) said its Tongan subsidiary, Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. (“TOML”) was granted exploration licences in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (“CCZ”) of the Eastern Pacific:

Sponsored by the Tongan Government, TOML has been granted approximately 75,000 km2 of prime exploration territory in the CCZ, which lies in international waters betweenHawaii andMexico.

As a result of exploration conducted in the 1980s, the CCZ is known to host significant deposits of polymetallic nodules, which are golf ball sized nuggets, rich in copper, nickel, manganese and cobalt, lying on the seafloor in water depths starting at 4500 metres.

On July 13 Japan Times reported on China’s attempt to mine the seafloor 5,000 metres below the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and North America, using the Jialong, said to be the world’s deepest-diving manned submersible.

If successful, the Jialong, which has a titanium hull made to withstand extreme water pressure, will attempt to dive to 7,000 metres in 2012, making it capable of reaching the bottom of almost all the world’s seas, according to the story:

China says one of its main aims is to be in prime position to explore and exploit what experts say is a treasure trove of trillions of dollars of gold, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, manganese, cobalt, iron and other minerals in rich reserves on the seabed of the ocean, which covers more than two-thirds of Earth’s surface with an average depth of 4,000 metres.

On July 4 MINING.com reported on a team of Japanese scientists that have found large quantities of rare earth minerals on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The team looked at 78 sites throughout the eastern South and central North Pacific ranging in depths of 3,500 to 6,000 metres:

“We estimate that an area of just one square kilometre, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements,” wrote Yasuhiro Kato, lead author of the study and an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.




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