JOGMEC, a state-backed organisation, launched its excavation trials with the marine resource research vessel Hakurei in July, with 649 kg of sands and rocks taken to the surface from cobalt-rich crust on the seabed of Japan's exclusive economic zone.
The ship was exploring the ocanic crust of the Takuyo No. 5 Seamount approximately 400 km east of Tokyo.
The crust is a manganese oxide with a thickness of up to 10 cm that covers basement rocks from the summit to the slope of the seamount, at a water depth of about 800-2,400 m.
JOGMEC crushed the sample crusts and the basement rock was separated and removed. It was melted in a high-temperature furnace to concentrate the metal content. Cobalt, nickel, and copper were extracted from the solution with a chemical solution.
The institution will now analyse the results before starting work on a new excavating machine specifically designed to excavate the crusts.
The crust of the Takuyo seamount contains enough cobalt to meet Japan's demand for 88 years and enough nickel to meet Japan's demand for 12 years, estimated JOGMEC.