Mineral Economics

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 287–306 | Cite as

Estimating the economics of a mining project on seafloor manganese nodules

  • Sebastian Ernst VolkmannEmail author
  • Felix Lehnen
  • Peter A. Kukla
Original Paper


The recent and renewed interest in deep-sea mining relates to the decrease of ore grades of known land-based deposits, the increasing costs in land-based mining, as well as rising metal prices, and an increased demand for strategic metals. This study examines the economic requirements for future commercial mining projects focusing on manganese nodules. Beside the common measures of profitability, the net present value (NPV), and the internal rate of return (IRR), an additional measure, the net profit (NP), is presented to indicate the profitability by considering past and future cost and price trends. Furthermore, the approach may be applied to determine the areas of commercial interest. The Blue Mining project in the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission serves as a reference case study. Having applied the developed methodology to a set of assumptions and estimates, results indicate that nodule mining projects would—at the time being and the foreseeable future—be launched at the verge of financial profitability.


Economics Mining project Manganese nodules Blue mining Nodule mining 



three-metal recovery (Ni, Co, Cu)


four-metal recovery (Ni, Co, Cu, Mn)


5-year moving average(s)


capital expenditure(s)


Clarion–Clipperton (Fracture) Zone






discounted cash flow (analysis)


deep-sea mining


discount rate




good, average, poor analysis


internal rate of return


International Seabed Authority, Kingston, Jamaica




life of mine




mining support vessel


manufactured exports unit value (MUV) index






net profit


net present value


net smelter (processor) return


operative expenditure(s) (per annum; p.a.)


pilot mining test


Producer Price Index


present value annuity factor


rare earth elements


run of mine


seafloor manganese nodules


seafloor mining tool


treatment charge and refining charge


technological readiness level


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea


United States (of America)


US Geological Survey


vertical transport system



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Mineral Resources Engineering (MRE)RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Geology and PalaeontologyRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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