Japan First to Test-Mine Hydrothermal Deposit

The country is now planning an economic evaluation for commercial industry

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hydrothermal deposit
A mining machine is put into water off the coast of Okinawa to extract minerals from a deep-water seabed. | AGENCY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENERGY / VIA KYODO

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) confirmed in late September that an effort to extract zinc and other metals from a hydrothermal deposit has been successful. The test, conducted in 1,600 m of water off Okinawa, is the world’s first successful mining and lift operation on a hydrothermal deposit.  It is also the largest operation to date to use ship-based extraction technology.

Six ore deposits have been found over the past three years within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.   Among these, the test site is believed to harbor an amount of zinc equal to Japan’s annual consumption, as well as significant quantities of gold, copper and lead.  Japan hopes to launch commercial mining at the sites by 2020 and is currently preparing an economic evaluation to better assess the resource and to conduct environmental surveys.