In the scope of mining technology development, the IOM works focused on the analysis of the existing subsea engineering practices and development of a conceptual design for a mining system feasible for the IOM’s exploration area. The comparison of alternative design variants was made. Development of a mining system includes the mathematical modelling of mining systems and computer simulations of control processes. Computer simulations included the assessment of the impacts of marine environment phenomena such as waves and currents on the mining system, the movement of the mining vessel and nodule miner and the effects of this movement on the vertical transport riser and its deformation. The laboratory tests have been carried out with a purpose to estimate slip velocity and to provide an experimental verification of nodules vertical flow on selected lifting sub-systems. In order to research and develop the nodules mining technology, the IOM strategy involved includes the following activities:
- pre-feasibility study based on the existing mining technologies,
- development of a site-specific conceptual design,
- models development and testing of the most important sub-systems and components,
- development of an engineering design of an integrated pilot mining complex for pilot-scale experiments.
It is assumed that the most essential requirement, regarding the development of deep sea mining system, is the technical and technological adaptation of equipment characteristics to geological, geotechnical and environmental conditions of the IOM exploration area. Distribution characteristics associated with the seabed features and the bottom topography, such as the relation between nodules’ density and topography as well as morphology of the seafloor, nodule sizes and mining site characteristics, all exert their influence on the exploitation method adopted. The environmental impacts on the seafloor and on water column must also be taken into account during development of the collector. The design solutions under investigation are used for preserving environment during mining (reducing the mass of sediment swirled up into the bottom near-water layer, minimizing sediment penetration and transport).
Nodule collector concept.