# Will Lithium batteries mean we have to exploit Co-Mn-Ni nodules from the seafloor?

Co-Mn-Ni goes into some of the most efficient Lithium Ion battery chemistry. It is very convenient that Co-Mn-Ni is also readily available from the ocean seabed.

Polymetallic nodule contains various metals like copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron, lead, zinc, aluminum, etc. Of these, copper, nickel and cobalt are of much importance and in great demand world over. In fact, due to their extensive technological use these three metals are fast depleting from the earth surface. Hence a world-wide research is progressing on sea nodules as an alternative future source of these metals

https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/297714746.pdf

So long as Lithium-ion remains a core battery technology, it seems that polymetallic mining from the seafloor is inevitable. Are there other sources of these elements that can be used other than the seafloor? Can recycling offset this issue?

• If mining seabed modules were possible , it would be happening . I think you will need to live with these metals mined the old fashioned way. as they are today. May 5 '21 at 22:50
• @blacksmith37 Nautilus already built the machines capable of mining the seafloor specifically the nodules. The company was mismanaged and went bankrupt in the development stage. Their capital has been reacquired now by other seafloor mining companies. The last hurdles are regulatory and being discussed now. Seafloor mining is coming fast. May 6 '21 at 16:14
• @Earthworm and you wonder why Earth Sciences is so dry. Space science fiction is all about moral dilemmas and ethics of colonization and exploitation and "opinions" married to real technology. I try to do the same here, and you want to keep it to whether or not the mineral has a cubic lattice. Dry as a bone. May 6 '21 at 16:17
• Bones are cool ! Say nothing against bones ! :-) Seriously, the question is pretty much in opposition toscience, full of speculation. An answer may be outdated while writing it because someone came up with a new battery idea. Nobody knows if it's worthwhile to pick up the nodules. 'Should we do' questions are highly opinionated. Someone says yes, another one no. So there's your answer :-) Good questions would be: how much of element x is there on the seafloor ? How does it form ? In which form does it exist ?
– user22279
May 6 '21 at 16:56
• How is the environment like there ? (You might be surprised about the pressure and how corrosive it is down there). With the answers to these questions you can then go to the engineers and ask them "Guys, do you see a way to mine that stuff and what's the effort like ?". Then to the economists and ask them "Would you buy it ?"
– user22279
May 6 '21 at 17:06

## 2 Answers

No it is not inevitable that the production and continued used of lithium batteries will mean the exploitation of cobalt, manganese and nickel nodules from the sea floor.

Sufficient quantities of these metals are obtained from conventional land based mines.

## Nickel

Two types of nickel mineralization are currently mined: sulphides and oxides (laterites).

Sulphide nickel is easier to treat metallurgically than oxide nickels. Once mined nickel sulphides are initially processed using flotation plants. Nickel oxides usually need to be treated in autoclaves (high pressure cookers for minerals) and depending on secondary mineralization the autoclaves use either acid or ammonia.

The major laterite producers are: Indonesia, Philippines, New Caledonia, Brazil and Cuba.

The major sulphide producers are: Canada, Australia & Russia.

Australia also has significant reserves of nickel laterites (oxides).

The top nickel mining companies are:

There is plenty of land based nickel available before sea bed nodules need to be mined for nickel.

## Manganese

Manganese is the 12th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. About 18.5 million tonnes of manganese are produced globally annually, from

South Africa   6.2 Mt
Australia      3.0 Mt
China          2.9 Mt
Gabon          1.8 Mt
Brazil         1.0 Mt


There are significant known resources of land based manganese for many years to come.

## Cobalt

Cobalt is currently mined by eight countries, with the Congo being the main producer:

Congo           100.0 kt
Russia            6.1 kt
Australia         5.1 kt
Philippines       4.6 kt
Cuba              3.5 kt
Madagascar        3.3 kt
Papua New Guinea  3.1 kt
Canada            3.0 kt


Again, there is sufficient production and resources of land based Cobalt to not require the exploitation of sea bed nodules.

Co-Mn-Ni goes into some of the most efficient Lithium Ion battery chemistry

This is correct.

It is very convenient that Co-Mn-Ni is also readily available from the ocean seabed.

This is less correct. Convenient from who? With resource extraction, there's no "convenient". There's economic, or not economic.

it seems that polymetallic mining from the seafloor is inevitable

This is incorrect.

Are there other sources of these elements that can be used other than the seafloor?

You're saying this as if we are currently mining seafloor deposits and nothing else.

The other answer provides a comprehensive list of the current production of Ni, Co, and Mn. In short: There's plenty more Ni, Co, and Mn around and there is absolutely no shortage of us running out of that in the coming hundreds of years. On land. Not in the ocean. http://elementsmagazine.org/past-issues/deep-ocean-mineral-deposits/ Most of the stuff is paywalled, but finding the texts online isn't too hard.

Specifically regarding seafloor mineral deposits, Elements Magazine published an issue two years ago outlining some of the prospects, issues, challenges, and promises in the field of seafloor mining.

One of the greatest problems is the enormous environmental impact. If you're mining on land, the environmental impact is pretty much localised to where you are mining. Once you're in the oceans, you're disturbing many kilometre-squares of area. With environmentally conscious consumers and companies, there will be no market. Volvo, for example, are pledging for ethical sourcing of their metals. They will not buy anything produced from the seafloor. Others have followed, or will follow soon. In that case, if there's no market, there's no need for production.