Deep Sea Minerals - Vol 3 - Cobalt-rich Ferromanganese Crusts - page 10

The crusts of economic interest are formed at the sea-floor
by precipitation from cold seawater (hydrogenetic), but iron
and manganese oxides can also be created below the sea-
floor through hydrothermal processes. The hydrothermal de-
posits usually consist of stratabound layers of manganese,
or iron, or manganese-cemented volcaniclastic and biogenic
sediments. They are distinctly different in texture and compo-
sition from hydrogenetic ferromanganese crusts. The hydro-
genetic crusts have similar amounts of iron and manganese,
whereas the hydrothermal deposits are predominantly either
iron or manganese (Hein
et al
. 2000). Hydrothermal activity
dilutes the metals of economic interest, although small de-
posits can occasionally be enriched in lithium, molybdenum,
chromium, zinc, nickel, or copper (Hein
et al
. 1997). At pres-
ent, the economic potential of these hydrothermal deposits is
uncertain, but might be reassessed with more investigation.
Hydrogenetic Crusts, Mixed Hydrothermal-hydrogenetic Crusts, and Stratabound
Hydrothermal Deposits
Farther away from the hydrothermal source, stratabound hy-
drothermal deposits grade into mixed hydrothermal-hydroge-
netic crusts. These mixed-source crusts form at the seabed
when the hydrothermal fluids exit the sea-floor, mix with sea-
water, and precipitate onto hard rock surfaces. Those close to
the hydrothermal source are very rich in iron and manganese
but, like the stratabound deposits, have low concentrations
of rare metals. As the distance from the source increases,
the hydrothermal contribution wanes and the cold ambient
seawater contribution dominates. Consequently, there is an
increasing concentration of rare metals the farther away from
the hydrothermal source the crusts are formed. The mixed
hydrothermal-hydrogenetic crusts have no economic impor-
tance. Only the purely hydrogenetic (seawater source) crusts
contain sufficient rare metals to be of current economic inter-
est (Hein
et al
. 2000).
Ferromanganese crust on a boulder collected from the Ninety East
Ridge, Indian Ocean. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Mervine.
Complex internal structure of ferromanganese crust.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,...50
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