Hawaii Site Selected For Testing Nodules Gathered From Ocean Floor

Governor George Ariyoshi of Hawaii, and Ocean Minerals Co.

of Mountain View, Calif., have jointly announced that a facility to study and test the processing of manganese nodules gathered by the ocean mining vessel Glomar Explorer will be built at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu, and begin operations next spring.

The new facility will represent an initial investment of about $4 million. It will be built on 10 acres of land adjacent to the Pacific Resources, Inc. oil refinery and substitute synthetic natural gas plant in the industrial park near Ewa. It will be one of only a few such plants anywhere in the world.

Manganese nodules are potatoshaped "rocks" lying on the floor of the world's oceans. Vast deposits, formed slowly over centuries, have been found 1,500 miles southeast of Hawaii. They contain approximately 25-percent manganese, and 3-percent nickel, copper and cobalt combined. Recent actions by the U.S. Congress relating to international "law of the sea" developments have been considered favorable to future manganese nodule mining.

Governor Ariyoshi called the plans of Ocean Minerals Co. and others involved in the project "an important milestone in our continuing effort to diversify Hawaii's economy. I am very pleased with this decision, and all in Hawaii will be watching this pilot operation for its potential for Hawaii's—and the world's— economic future." An environmental assessment has been prepared and submitted to the State Government for review.

It is expected that up to 80 workers will be employed in the facility's construction. It is expected to be in operation for three to five years and, during the processing phase, will handle about 50 dry weight metric tons of nodules per day.

When in full operation, the plant is not expected to require more than a dozen employees. It is anticipated that operational costs will be about $1 million a year.

Governor Ariyoshi said he was informed Hawaii was chosen because "the islands are the closest land areas to large volumes of nodules, and Hawaii has shown a welcoming and supportive attitude toward such a facility, both from Governmental agencies and private industries in the islands.

It also has excellent scientific and technical support facilities," he said.

"Hawaii may have an image in some minds of being antibusiness and antidevelopment, but this is one example that the reality is the opposite of the image," the Governor said. "Hawaii welcomes all industrial enterprises which are environmentally sound and which support the goals found in our Hawaii State Plan." The Governor said the facility "should tell us everything we need to know about the potential for larger plants and how they might be regulated and managed for the good of Hawaii's people as well as investor profitability." The manganese nodules will probably be mined in an area of the deep ocean floor located between the Clarion and Clipperton Fracture Zones. A research vessel, the Governor Ray, is being used to pinpoint the nodule beds.

The Glomar Explorer will mine them by a suction-type method using an ocean floor collecting device.

The nodules will be broken up into small pieces which will be transported in bulk by barge to Oahu's Barbers Point Harbor.

They will then be transported to storage areas near the test facility.

The first phase of the facility operation will be concerned with testing equipment necessary for processing nodules. If successful, the facility may then be developed into a complete processing demonstration plant.

The project has been titled the Manganese Nodule Equipment Testing and Demonstration Processing Facility by Ocean Minerals Co.

Assisting in locating the facility in Hawaii are the State Government, County of Hawaii officials who have expressed the hope that a full-size processing plant will eventually be located on the Island of Hawaii, Pacific Resources, Inc., which will supply utilities for the plant; and the Dillingham Corp., which holds the lease for the Campbell Industrial Park site, and which may become involved in the barge hauling of nodules.

The Ralph M. Parsons Co. is acting as engineering consultant for the building project.

In 1977, Billiton B.V. and BKW Ocean Minerals B.V., both of the Netherlands, and Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., formed Ocean Minerals Incorporated, which in turn formed Ocean Minerals Co. as a partnership with Amoco Ocean Minerals Company, Chicago, 111.

Lockheed has been developing ocean mining technology since 1964, and has been engaged as prime contractor for the company.

Other small pilot facilities for processing manganese nodules have been established in Canada, Boston, Mass., and Gloucester Point, Va. The Colorado School of. Mines in Golden, Colo., also has been involved in the process development program for Ocean Minerals Co.

Other stories from October 1978 issue


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