Simultaneous AUV Survey and Seabed Sampling Operations to Optimize Marine Mineral Exploration Programs

Starts: Thu, Dec 5, 2019 9:00 AM
Ends: Thu, Dec 5, 2019 10:00 AM
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AUV Survey and Seabed Sampling Operations

After decades of virtual inactivity in the deepwater mining industry, new commercial initiatives by private companies are now underway to collect data on deepwater seabed mineral deposits.  The renewed interest is due to need for metals such as cobalt and copper, as well as REE’s (Rare Earth Elements) that are needed to supply the forecasted shift from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles and to supply critical metals for green-tech applications such as wind turbines.

This talk illustrates some of the most challenging marine mining site-characterization work recently undertaken. Specifically, it is about successfully executing simultaneous AUV geophysical data acquisition and seabed mineral sampling programs for polymetallic nodules in the Eastern Pacific.  The remoteness of the survey area required a non-conventional approach to data acquisition to ensure that vessel time was optimized. The original scope to only perform high-resolution geophysical seafloor mapping was expanded to include mineral, geotechnical, and environmental sampling. To achieve the additional scope using a single vessel, a seabed positioning system was deployed in some 4200 m of water. This allowed the AUV to survey in truly autonomous mode and freed the vessel to simultaneously take samples across the extensive survey area. This complex survey required strategic planning and execution, including significant onboard processing and interpretation of geophysical data, in parallel with robust mineral sampling and documentation. All data from the AUV survey and mineral sampling operations were integrated to update the nickel, copper, manganese, and cobalt mineral resource estimate for the survey area, and as inputs to the geotechnical soil property and environmental databases. The approach presented here, especially the simultaneous survey and sampling operations, can also be applied to optimize other marine site-characterization field programs.

This talk was presented by Devine et al., at the AUT/SUT Conference in Perth in October 2019 and is re-presented in the Americas at the request of SUT-US.

About the Presenters

Dan McConnell, Global Product Manager - Gas Hydrates and Marine Minerals, Fugro

Dan McConnell is the global product manager for gas hydrates and marine minerals for Fugro and a marine geologist with over 20 years of experience with main areas of interest in seafloor mapping and geochemistry surveys, deepwater site characterization, marine mineral exploration, and methane hydrate exploration. Dan participated in the site selection and science party in the landmark Chevron-US Department of Energy gas hydrate drilling expedition in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 and serves on the U.S. Department of Energy Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee. In 2016, Dan was able to go offshore on the MarMine seafloor massive sulfide exploration cruise on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge and lead the geoscience team on the NORI 2018 Geophysical and Mineral Sampling Survey for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone.





Kathryn Rovang, GIS Analyst Project Geoscientist, Fugro

Kathryn Rovang is a geoscientist and GIS analyst with experience in integrated site characterization involving interpreting geophysical, geological, and geotechnical data using various software packages. She possesses 3 years of experience in various GIS applications, specifically database management, high resolution data manipulation and analysis, python scripting for automated tool workflows, and developing multiple software suite workflows for data processing both in web-based and desktop platforms. Kathryn participated as a member of the geoscience team on the DeepGreen NORI-D Campaign 3 Geophysical and Geotechnical Survey in 2018. She has a B.S in Anthropology and a B.S in Geology and Geophysics; as well as, a GIS Analyst II certification. 


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