Offshore Exploration

GNS Science and NIWA have been studying New Zealand's offshore mineral resources to gain a better understanding of their evolution and economic value.

Massive Sulphide Mineralisation

GNS Science is currently actively mapping the extent of seafloor mineral deposits as part of our offshore research.

More than 20 undersea volcanoes in the Kermadec Arc region, northeast of New Zealand, are hydrothermally active. At least three volcanoes have massive sulphide deposits that contain quantities of copper, zinc, barium and gold.

volcano model

It is conceivable that up to 40 of the 65 identified undersea volcanoes between New Zealand and Tonga are hydrothermally active and have associated deposits that are rich in minerals. Scientists estimate that at least 80% of the world's volcanism occurs in the oceans, and a large proportion of these undersea volcanoes have yet to be mapped and characterised.

UNCLOS: New Zealand’s Continental Shelf Project

Our research of offshore mineral resources forms an integral part of New Zealand's claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Aotearoa NZ map

GNS Science’s role is to provide intelligence on the distribution and characteristics of offshore mineral resources. GNS Science are able to advise governments and companies on harvesting these resources.

Click here to see large image of the map of new Zealands extended continental shelf (ECS) and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

For more information on UNCLOS, check out our marine research.

Economic Value
Seafloor mineral deposits within New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone could be worth up to $500 billion (The Centre for Advanced Engineering, CAE). However, CAE concedes that any attempt to value marine mineral resources at this stage is speculative, as additional exploration is required to define these resources.

The true value of these resources will depend on future market prices relative to extraction costs.

< NZ Minerals