History of Discovery and Researches in the Mining Areas
People first heard of the researches of ferromanganese nodules and other mineral sediments when FMNs were discovered in 1872-1876. Then, the ferromanganese nodules were viewed as a natural object of exclusively scientific interest. That is why they held only spot surveys. Although, as early as then they came to first conclusions regarding the association of FMNs with particular types of oceanic and marine sedimentations: deep-sea red clays and radiolarian earth.
The beginning of the second stage of studies of the oceanic FMNs referred to the second half of the XX century and stemmed from recognition of their economic value. That was also when they formulated the first ideas of existence of the most important regional factors favorable for the nodules formation. In particular: the sedimentation rate, indirectly related to a relief, ocean depth and bottom currents, vertical zonation of water layer and a calcium carbonate compensation depth level, morphotectonic environment, water layer biological productivity, as well as the oxidation rate of the ore formation environment and potential cores for nodules formation.
People had a general idea of local nodules allocation peculiarities. The discovery in 1950s of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the eastern part of the near-equatorial zone of the Pacific Ocean has become an important practical result. This Zone is the richest in terms of commercial components content and ore-bearing scale. In early 1970s, the researchers brought the basic FMNs expansion behavior in the World Ocean to light.
Thereafter, we are now able to assert the beginning of the third stage of comprehensive researches in the sphere of FMNs mining technologies: starting from early 1980s, they started regular geological prospecting and exploration activities aimed at the preparation to practical development of deposits in the World Ocean water areas. In 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was executed and acknowledged to establish international legal regulations to be observed by ISA contractors in the course of prospecting, exploration and mining operations within the International Seabed Area. The International Seabed Authority (the UN ISA) was established to control and manage mineral resources in the Area.
The FMN deposits exploration activities are regulated by the UN ISA and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea documents, in particular, the Rules for Prospecting and Exploration of Ferromanganese Nodules within the Area. The most active geological prospecting and exploration operations have been particularly focused on the Clarion-Clipperton Province. Within its borders, there are over 20 license areas each containing a separate FMNs deposit, meaning that each area has such a concentration, reserves and quality of ores that satisfy the requirements of revenue-producing operation consistent with with the rules and procedures established by the UN ISA.