Vessels Offshore Diamond Mining

Having described the areas and types of offshore diamond mining system in use, I return to the surface support vessel itself. The offshore mining industry is still a relatively young industry and one who’s product remains a luxury item. Capital funding has and still is placed into the concession holders or mining operators preferred means of mining. Thus no company to date has gone to the shipbuilding industry to have a purpose vessel designed and built, instead it is traditional to look for a vessel of opportunity on the used market that best suits ones needs. The size and type of vessel will depend upon the type of mining system to be deployed and space required for the matching process plant etc.

The following are typical choices that have been made to date:
  • Airlift System
  • AHTS supply vessel
  • Suction dredger
  • Cargo vessel

Crawler System Dive/Construction support vessel
  • Naval diving vessel

Drill System Drill vessel
  • Cargo vessel

Choice is also market related at the time a purchase is being made. When the oil industry is doing well then supply vessels are often demanding high prices as are drill vessels and vice versa. Having purchased a vessel then the scope for typical conversion to becoming a mining vessel can include the following :
Four Point mooring
  • Survey and sonar system

Additional accommodation
  • Additional fuel and water capacity

Process plant
  • Security systems

Mining system
  • Hydraulic system

Additional power generation
  • Helicopter landing facility

It is becoming more common that deck space is increased through the fabrication of side sponsons and also lengthening of the vessel. There are currently four vessels operating that have been widened by the addition of side sponsons. The vessel’s draft is also important due to that there are few ports along the western coast of South Africa and Namibia and what there are have limited draft capacity.