Dorado Discovery - Discovering Deep-Ocean Minerals
While 70% of our planet is covered with water, much of the world’s ocean floors remain uncharted. Yet, as scientific research and recent discoveries show, huge deposits rich in base metals like copper, gold, zinc and silver exist on the ocean floor in reasonably predictable areas. This enormous untapped resource offers tremendous opportunity…and Odyssey won’t miss the boat! We’re applying our vast deep-ocean exploration experience and technology to discover naturally occurring mineral deposits on the ocean floor.
Nearly 100% of the minerals and metals consumed today come from land-based mines. However, metal concentrations from sample deposits of recovered seafloor rock are significantly higher than those mined commercially around the world from onshore sites. And these deep-sea deposits can be extracted in a more economically efficient and environmentally-friendly manner than in traditional land-based mines!
Seafloor Massive Sulfide (SMS) deposits are naturally occurring deposits that contain high concentrations of gold, copper, zinc, silver and other metals in relatively compact areas. Although their existence is possible anywhere that new ocean crust has formed, the highest grade deposits have been found at convergent plate margins and earthquake-prone areas especially in the waters of the South Pacific, New Zealand and Japan. In fact, the South Pacific is dubbed the “Ring of Fire” and is believed to be one of the richest to contain SMS deposits since it is comprised of over 75% of the world's active and dormant volcanoes.
SMS deposits are formed as cold seawater moves down through cracks in the seafloor and is superheated by the molten magma deep within the crust. The hot hydrothermal fluid rises to the surface, dissolving and leaching metals from the surrounding rock as it rises. When the hydrothermal fluid encounters the cold seawater, the metals and sulfides precipitate and accumulate on the seafloor as a SMS deposit.
In 2009, Odyssey became involved with deep-ocean mineral mining by acquiring a minority stake in Dorado Ocean Resources (“Dorado”). In 2011, Odyssey expanded its deep-ocean exploration client base by providing exploration services to Neptune Minerals (“Neptune”) earning cash and an equity position in Neptune. Recently, Neptune completed a share exchange with the stockholders of Dorado, and acquired all of Dorado’s tenements and assets. While Odyssey does not have a controlling interest in Neptune, we are currently the largest shareholder and we continue to provide exploration services to Neptune under contract.
Equipped with the most sophisticated technology Odyssey is well-prepared to pursue this exciting new undertaking. In 2010, Odyssey signed a long-term charter for the Dorado Discovery and turned it into one of the world’s most-advanced mineral exploration vessels. At about 100 meters long (over 300 feet), and 18 meters wide, the Dorado Discovery is the first purpose-built SMS survey vessel. The ship is designed to support all the different types of equipment used in the exploration phase, and also in the next phases of bulk sampling, drilling, and coring of deposits. This allows us to have one vessel working all year long, with the ability to collect all required data and samples with a complete suite of equipment on board for the multitude of tasks required.
The Dorado Discovery is equipped with the following:
- Science laboratories to focus on water chemistry as well as geological and biological sampling.
- Refrigerated/freezer sample storage facilities to properly preserve the parameters of the sample for additional shoreside analysis.
- A massive 35-ton A-Frame that not only launches the two survey deep-tow sleds on board, but also can handle future launches of drilling and coring machines, recovery of large amounts of samples and potentially to test mining machine concepts.
- Two tow sleds:
- The deep-tow side-scan sonar sled with a magnetometer for collecting wide-swath acoustic imagery of areas and associated magnetics.
- The state-of-the-art TowYo sled dedicated to water chemistry, and CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) type functions for the methodical detection of plumes from the vent systems associated with deposits of massive sulfides.
- Mounted to the ship’s hull, a RESON 8160 multibeam swath mapping system for large area mapping as well as a precision single-beam echosounder for precise bathymetric collection.
One of Odyssey’s large work-class Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), ZEUS II, has been mobilized on board to carry a RESON 7125 high-resolution multi-beam system for close-in, detailed mapping of areas that become identified with a high probability of SMS deposits. The ROV can conduct precision work without the need for time-consuming deployment of transponders on the seafloor, and is equipped with many specialized tools for conducting the unique survey and collection tasks. The ship has a full fabrication setup to build additional tools as the needs may arise.
The Dorado Discovery has a large open control room layout so that the scientists are intimately involved with the collection operation. They can alter and refine collections as needed, making the process more effective as pertinent data is brought back from each dive or tow. An upgraded precision navigation suite boasts additional sensors and systems to refine the accuracy of the multi-beam maps and positioning of the towed vehicles and ROV—even in the very remote parts of the world where we will be searching for SMS deposits.
A Dynamic Position (DP) control system allows us to automatically control the ship’s two tunnel thrusters, front azimuth thruster and controllable pitch main propeller to position the vessel for various types of operational requirements. The Dorado Discovery has the ability to carry large amounts of fuel, water and provisions giving her the long endurance necessary to comfortably support the 54 crew and scientists in the remote locations we have been working. A media-equipped conference room permits the space for pre-dive briefs, data presentation and review and general discussion. Throughout the year, students and academics will be invited to participate in our explorations. Two recently geology graduates from the University of PNG (Papua New Guinea) joined us on a recent expedition as guests aboard the Dorado Discovery and worked with our team on PNG sites of interest.
The mission to discover and commercialize SMS deposits is now in high gear and attracting worldwide attention. With cutting-edge technology and vast deep-ocean exploration expertise, Odyssey’s seafloor mineral exploration has moved beyond the conceptual phase and we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this emerging industry.
Odyssey Marine Exploration’s unparalleled experience of finding shipwrecks and valuables in the deep ocean is now also being applied to the discovery and commercialization of natural treasures on the seabed. It’s a natural extension of our core business and our quest to discover and share the ocean’s treasures.
Click here to learn more about Odyssey's Deep-Oceans Services