American Gold Coin Value-Could Deep Sea Mining Someday Lower It?

I hear talk about gold and silver prices going absurdly high, because the demand will significantly outpace production. I can’t imagine this ever happening. When their prices get high enough to pay for the exploration and development, I imagine cryptocurrency companies will look for other deposits.

I’ve also heard there is 5 times the amount of gold and silver underwater as above water. Under sea deposits contain high concentrations valuable metals such as, copper, gold, zinc, lead, silver and sulfur. Will underwater mining become the new way to supply our precious and industrial minerals?

Deposits are found in underwater volcanic areas, and are created by hydrothermal plumes known as black smokers. When seawater seeps through into the porous seabed, the water is heated down below, and is then spouted back up into the ocean through these black smoker geysers.

The fluids emitted by these deep sea vents are rich in metals and high in temperature, anywhere from 300-600ºC. When the fluids hit the near freezing ocean water, the metals precipitate out and form chimneys around the plumes.

Deep sea mining companies generally exploit inactive hydrothermal zones. This is where the black smokers have all become extinct. The deposits can yield as much as ten times the gold or silver as a mineral seam that’s currently mined on land.

A couple of mining companies are positioned to begin deep sea mining sometime in the next one to five years. Extracting deep sea minerals isn’t easy however, and the price for gold and silver must support it. The deep sea mining industry faces many challenges before it can claim underwater mineral deposits.

First, there is resistance from conservationists, fishers, and coastal residents who are concerned about the destruction of the ocean environment. This endeavor requires a whole new mining technology, as well as has considerable front end capital requirements.

Canadian based Nautilus Minerals plans to launch the world’s first deep sea mining operation in the coastal waters near Papua New Guinea. Last year, the New Guinean government granted the Canadian firm a 20 year license to mine a site 19 miles off their coast.

The company plans to mine the site by combining technologies from the offshore oil and gas industry, and marine dredging as well as offshore diamond mining techniques. But the technology is still evolving to suit the unique needs of this type of mining. Nautilus Minerals Inc. claims that ocean floor mining is safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly than current land mining practices.

However, mining a mile below the sea’s surface where pressure is 160 times greater than on land, and where temperatures swing from below freezing to hundreds of degrees above boiling, is very tricky and far more expensive than current mining practices.

Greenpeace stated that seabed mining should not be permitted in most of the world’s oceans. They’re concerned about the potential for damage to deep sea ecosystems. So far, we have no practical experience in this type of operation. It is completely different from mining on land. Therefore we can’t totally predict the environmental impact.

One nice thing about deep sea mining is that instead of having to find one large individual deposit of ore, as with land based mines, the operation can be moved easily from deposit to deposit. Taking production offshore will also eliminate the disruption to communities that is frequently a consequence of operating land based mines.

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