Science et Environnement
AUVs to pack-hunt for seabed ore bodies

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AUVs to pack-hunt for seabed ore bodies

Science et Environnement

Challenge: How to detect and map deep-sea ore bodies using autonomous underwater vehicles Idea: Use small AUVs working in coordinated packs. And the target? Commercially viable deposits of what geologists call sulphide deposits or, more precisely, ‘volcanic-associated massive sulphide’ deposits. Incidentally, the ‘massive’ in VMS does not necessarily mean big, but formless and rich in metals.

Such is the aim of the Melodi (magnetic and electromagnetic ore detection) project set up by a French consortium led by Créocéan with partners ECA Group, RTsys and DCNS. This €4.5m collaborative initiative combines three complementary research programmes: Messidor, Doremi and Docking sponsored by Créocéan, Mappem Geophysics and DCNS, respectively. Messidor brings expertise in the magnetic detection of sulphide deposits; Doremi brings 3D resource characterisation and Docking, know-how in AUV hosting infrastructure.

Enormous potential

“We know the seabed is host to immense ore bodies containing concentrations of valuable and rare metals at least equivalent to those of land-based resources. The techniques currently used for deep-sea exploration are complex, expensive and often cause ecological damage, making them unsatisfactory for industrial scale mineral exploration,” say the Melodi partners.

“Given that sulphide deposits are rich in materials used to produce electronic components and develop nanotechnologies, the potential is enormous. With land-based

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