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Mapping seafloor massive sulfides with the Golden Eye frequency-domain EM profilerNormal access

Authors: Hendrik Müller, Katrin Schwalenberg, Konstantin Reeck, Udo Barckhausen, Ulrich Schwarz-Schampera, Christian Hilgenfeldt and Tilo von Dobeneck
Journal name: First Break
Issue: Vol 36, No 10, October 2018 pp. 61 - 67
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 1.22Mb )
Price: € 30

Since the early discovery of a black-smoker complex in 1978 on the East Pacific Rise at 21°N, speculations and expectations have been driven about the potential and perspectives of mining seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits in the deep-ocean. With a worldwide accelerating industrialization, emerging markets, increased commodity prices and metal demand, and advance¬ments in deep-water mining and extraction technologies, mining of SMS may become economically feasible in the near future (Kowalczyk, 2008). However, we still know little about the resource potential of SMS deposits, and the development of geophysical methods for an assessment of their spatial extent, composition, and inner structure is crucial to derive a proper assessment of their economic value. Novel geophysical mapping techniques and exploration strategies are required to locate extinct and buried clusters of SMS deposits, away from the active vent fields and of larger economic potential, but are difficult to find and sample by conventional methods. In 2015 the International Seabed Authority (ISA) assigned an exploration license for polymetallic sulfide deposits to the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in a specified area comprising 100 patches, each 10 . 10 km in size, distributed along the Central and Southeastern Indian Ridge. The challenge to acquire high resolution near-surface electromagnetic (EM) data in such geologically and morphologically complex mid-ocean ridge environments has been addressed by our recent development of the deep-sea profiler Golden Eye that utilizes a frequency-domain electromagnetic (FDEM) central loop sensor, of 3.3 m diameter (Müller et al., 2016). This system has been used in 2015 and 2017 to map active and relict hydrothermal vent fields in the SMS licensing areas. Aside from technological developments, this paper discusses new data processing routines and methods to unravel the conductivity-depth-distribution, induced polarization and magnetic susceptibility, and joint interpretation with geochem¬istry as key elements to map and evaluate SMS deposits.

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