Quantifying the Unknown: Marine Mineral Resource Potential on the Norwegian Extended Continental Shelf

Steinar Løve Ellefmo, Fredrik Søreide
Chapter authors:
Georgy Cherkashov, Cyril Juliani, Krishna Kanta Panthi, Sergey Petukhov, Irina Poroshina, Richard Sinding-Larsen, Ben Snook


Copper, zinc, gold and silver mineralizations exist on the deep ocean floor, at great depths, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen. None of these mineralizations within Norwegian jurisdiction have been thoroughly investigated yet, but they are likely to contain significant amounts of minerals and metals crucial to society and the ‘Green Shift’.

Should these mineralizations, which contain minerals and metals that you and I use every day, be developed and mined? The question is premature: we need to know more before we can answer it. We need to know more about the formation, location and characteristics of these potential deposits, as well as the environmental, social and financial consequences of potential extraction. We need to evaluate mining alternatives and how to process the extracted ore. How should we answer this question? The ultimate decisions will be determined politically, and knowledge will be the defining factor. Knowledge gained from proper mineral resource management.

Quantifying the Unknown sets out to estimate the amount of minerals and metals on the deep ocean floor along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, in particular, copper, zinc, gold and silver contained in so-called ‘seafloor massive sulphide deposits’. These deposits are modern analogues of those mined worldwide on land today. The method used to quantify the amounts of these resources is known as ‘play analysis’. It shares aspects of methodologies used on land for similar purposes and has been employed extensively to assess untapped petroleum resources on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Play analysis enables a quantification of the potential as well as associated uncertainty.

The potential is large, but the uncertainty is also significant. Whether and how this potential is realized remains to be seen.

Author Biographies

Steinar Løve Ellefmo

Steinar L. Ellefmo is Associate Professor at the Department of Geoscience and Petroleum, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). His research and teaching interests are within the broad field of mineral resource management and mining engineering, specifically geostatistics, 3D ore body modelling, mine planning and mineral resource potential assessment. Ellefmo is a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and the Society of Economic Geologists (SEG).

Fredrik Søreide

Fredrik Søreide holds a PhD in Marine Engineering from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). He is currently Adjunct Professor at the Department of Marine Technology at NTNU focusing on underwater technology and marine science. He has been involved in marine minerals research and ocean mining activities for the past 20 years and is currently mainly engaged in the JPIO project, Ecological Aspects of Deep-sea Mining. Søreide is the author of three other books.

Georgy Cherkashov

Georgy Cherkashov is Deputy Director of the Institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Ocean (VNIIOkeangeologia, St. Petersburg, Russia). He holds a Dr. Sci. for research of seafloor massive sulphide deposits of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (2004). Cherkashov is a member of the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority (since 2012) and Professor of Marine Geology at St. Petersburg State University (since 2005).

Cyril Juliani

Cyril Juliani received his PhD from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Geoscience and Petroleum. His dissertation focused on quantifying undiscovered seabed mineral resources and evaluating the exploration risk for deep-sea mineral prospects. Juliani is currently involved in the NTNU oceans pilot program on deep-sea mining, a research project focusing on the different value chains of seabed mineral extraction and exploration.

Krishna Kanta Panthi

Krishna Kanta Panthi is Professor of Geological Engineering at the Department of Geoscience and Petroleum, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). He holds a PhD (Dr.Ing.) in rock engineering, MSc in hydropower development and MSc in tunnelling. He has over 27 years of experience in research, design and implementation of rock engineering, tunnelling, hydropower, mining and slope engineering projects. Panthi is the author of over 70 scientific articles and book chapters published in internationally recognized journals, publication canals and conference proceedings.

Sergey Petukhov

Sergey Petukhov heads the analytical group Department of Geology and Mineral Resources of the Ocean, VNIIOkeangeologia. Petukhov holds a PhD in mining engineering and is an expert in data management and modelling of geodynamic processes.

Irina Poroshina

Irina Poroshina is a senior scientist at VNIIOkeangeologia. She is an expert in geomorphology and structural analysis of mid-ocean ridges.

Richard Sinding-Larsen

Richard Sinding-Larsen has been Professor of Resource Geology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) since 1980, Emeritus since 2012. His research focuses on the estimation of undiscovered mineral resources, with particular attention to the process of discovering metals and petroleum. He has a long-standing interest in deposit modelling and pioneered probabilistic assessment of Caledonian massive sulphide resources and initiated the development of methodology and tools (GeoX, now owned by Schlumberger) used as decision support for risk, resource and economic evaluation of exploration. Sinding-Larsen’s current research interest is in how to appraise and quantify resource uncertainties within mineral and petroleum systems whose components are logically related in complex ways – such as sulphides linked to volcanic spreading ridges beneath the oceans and petroleum systems.

Ben Snook

Ben Snook achieved a PhD in granitic petrology after working on a variety of exploration geology projects in South America. He has continued to pursue research in Norwegian mineral deposits, specialising in the characterisation of seafloor massive sulphide ores and in automated mineralogy analytical systems.

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November 18, 2019


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