Mining’s next frontier: deep sea vents
By late 2013, Nautilus Minerals of Vancouver, Canada, plans to begin mine for copper and gold at a hydrothermal vent field known as Solwara 1. This lies in Papua New Guinea’s Exclusive Economic Zone, but similarly valuable deposits may lie in international waters, where mining claims are regulated by the International Seabed Authority. How many vent fields contain enough ore to be worth mining remains unclear — and the number will vary depending on metal prices.
The map below documents all known hydrothermal vent fields. Use the pan and zoom controls to explore, and click on the points for details about each. Unconfirmed vent fields have so far mostly been detected only by the plume of smoky water that they emit — their dates of discovery will be revised to the date of visual confirmation, if and when they are visited.
Source: InterRidge Vents Database/VLIZ Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase/University of Texas PLATES Project