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Les ressources minérales profondes en Polynésie française / Deep-sea mineral resources in French Polynesia

 | 
Pierre-Yves Le Meur
, 
Pierre Cochonat
, 
Carine David
, 
et al.

II. Recommendations

R6. Conduct research and development programmes focused on innovative technology in the fields of exploration, mining and metallurgy of deep-sea mineral resources

Texte intégral

Rationale

1The short-term knowledge acquisition campaigns (R2) must be quickly followed by work to define the priorities for research, innovation and technological development in the medium to long term. This means setting up a scientific programme to acquire the necessary data and resources, covering all disciplines and ranging from basic research to applied research and developing innovations. The objective is to understand how the metals are distributed (geological models for deposit formation, spatial distribution of metals and development of methods for profiling the resources) and to develop methods for mining and processing the ore and extracting the metal it contains.

Timeframe

2The timeframe is the medium to long term. Depending on the outcome of the short-term exploration campaign(s) (R2), and if there is strong interest from industrial players or other regional partners, a multi-year exploration programme covering the entire French Polynesian EEZ could be launched. This programme could be conducted in several phases: (1) regional exploration using multi-beam sounder (MBS) and sampling; (2) studying sites, sampling and evaluating resources, including associated biodiversity, using remote-operated and autonomous underwater vehicles (ROV and AUV); (3) monitoring spatio-temporal changes to these sites with the aim of observing and protecting the environment (Deep-Sea Observatories). In addition to polymetallic crusts, over the long term this programme could include other types of resource: particularly nodules and possibly rare earth elements, if new arguments in their favour emerge.

Proposed actions

  • Develop micro-drilling technologies to obtain cores weighing a few hundred grams, 50 cm max length, for in situ investigation, taking into account variations in crust thickness and ore concentration.
  • Study the possibility of developing in situ logging (combined with micro-drilling) and real-time measurement methods (Raman spectroscopy).
  • Continue to develop innovative deep-sea geophysical instruments (ROV and especially AUV) to achieve high- to very-high-resolution 2D and 3D imaging of the seabed (topography, roughness and crust thickness) and to describe the nature of the seabed using every kind of geophysical measurement.
  • Implement seabed systems suited to monitoring and measuring the spatio-temporal evolution of the physical and chemical characteristics of water around exploitation sites (current strength and direction, sediment plume, destruction and resilience of habitats, etc.) to track the parameters characterising environmental changes before, during and after mining.
  • Over the longer term, launch a design study for a pilot project to exploit and process cobalt ore and extract metals other than cobalt found in significant concentrations in the crusts (e.g. manganese and platinum).
  • Promote research in the field of metallurgy, which implies the collection of several tonnes of samples to test various metallurgical processes, and study the separation of Mn, Ti and Pt (co-processing of the ore).

Constraints and conditions

3At each stage in the conception and implementation of this technological research and development policy, it is necessary to (1) identify stakeholders/partners (in research and industry, especially for the work on exploitation techniques), and (2) develop local expertise consistent with the priority themes to gradually train and integrate young Polynesians (technicians, engineers and researchers) as the sector develops, the aim being to encourage/promote their involvement in the consortia being established.

Connections with other recommendations

4R6 is a continuation of R2 and is subject to the conditions of R5.

Reference to full contributions

5III-1, III-2, III-3 and III-4

© IRD Éditions, 2016

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