Hidden Gem vessel for deep-sea mining

Deep-sea mining game making progress

Preparation for the future deep-sea mining projects is in full swing in Delft, The Netherlands, where the Allseas project team is fabricating its first robotic collector vehicle, project partner DeepGreen reports.

Courtesy: DeepGreen Metals

In June 2019, DeepGreen Metals and Allseas formed a strategic partnership, bringing DeepGreen’s expertise in exploring for high-grade metals obtained from seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits together with Allseas’ offshore engineering capabilities.

According to DeepGreen, the system is on target for delivery this October.

While Allseas will develop the core nodule collection technology and surrounding mechanical assembly in-house, it has contracted the Dutch subsea technology firm Seatools to bring its nodule collector alive by the delivery of the entire hydraulic, electronic, and control system.

More specifically, Seatools will perform the entire engineering trajectory, spanning design, building, testing and delivering of the subsea crawler’s infrastructure and related vessel equipment required to operate the vehicle at full ocean depth.

The nodule collector should head out for sea trials in the Atlantic by the end of the year.

Drillship for deep-sea mining

Meanwhile, in Norway, the production vessel the Hidden Gem is undergoing maintenance and project equipment reactivation.

Hidden Gem vessel for deep-sea mining
Courtesy: DeepGreen Metals

The vessel should leave Kristiansand in July and will support the collector trials later this year.

These early trials will enable the team to flag any issues before our full deep-sea pilot collection test in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific next year.

To remind, Allseas acquired the former 228 meters long ultra-deepwater drillship Vitoria 10000 in March last year for conversion to a polymetallic nodule collection vessel.

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As a former drill ship, its configuration suits well for modifications that will enable the deployment at sea of a 4.5 kilometre-long riser currently in development by Allseas. After the nodules have been collected and taken to shore they will be processed using a metallurgical flowsheet developed by DeepGreen.

Driven by the green energy transition, the interest in high-grade seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits has risen in the past few years due to the depleting terrestrial deposits for metals such as copper, nickel, manganese, and cobalt.

Nevertheless, subsea mining does not take place on a commercial scale yet as current technology readiness levels fall short.

Allseas and DeepGreen aim to close the technology gaps by developing advanced deep-water equipment to gather nodules responsibly from the ocean floor.