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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Reductive microbial dissolution of manganese nodules as a possible hazard of deep-sea mining

  • C. Schütt1 and
  • J. C. G. Ottow1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414769


The microbial lysis of deep-sea nodules as a possible result of large-scale, deep-sea mining is considered. It is assumed that the Mn (IV) and Fe (III) compounds of the manganese nodules are reduced by the numerous aerobic bacteria at the sediment/water interface as soon as the adjacent nodule area is buried by sedimentation of the disturbed deposits and the organic-rich debris from the blooming surface plankton. Intensive mineralization processes in the resettled sediments cause oxygen depletion. Subsequently, the aerobic (and anaerobic) microorganisms will switch to Mn (IV) and Fe (III) oxides as alternative electron acceptors in order to continue their energy-conserving (ATP synthesis) reactions (anaerobic respiration). The higher the amount of decomposable organic matter, the more intensive are these processes. Consequently, buried manganese nodules may be dissolved, thereby liberating mobile Mn (II), Fe (II) and several trace elements (Ni, Cu, Co and others). This possible hazard and its ecological consequences should be evaluated carefully before deep-sea mining is started on a large scale.