Hydrothermal metalliferous sediments in Red Sea deeps: Formation, characterization and properties

M. Clara Modenesi*, J. Carlos Santamarina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Sediment accumulations within the Red Sea central deeps have unique genesis and properties. We piece together available information to understand their geological setting and formation history, and conduct an extensive sediment characterization study to assess their geotechnical properties in order to anticipate engineering/mining implications. The various sediment columns reflect slow-rate background sedimentation (biogenic and detrital particles – Valdivia deep) and hydrothermal metalliferous sediments that nucleate and grow within the overlying brine pools (primarily in the Atlantis II, as well as in the Wando deep, and to a lesser extent in Discovery deep). All sediments are fine-grained silt and clay-size particles; smaller particles tend to have higher specific gravity and define the metalliferous content. Hydrothermal sediments exhibit extreme properties when compared to sediments worldwide: they have uncharacteristically large maximum void ratio and compressibility, and their self-compaction is very different from background Red Sea sediments. Their unique self-compaction trends have a strong effect on remote acoustic characterization and sampling, and must be carefully accounted for during field studies and resource assessment. Three distinct properties of hydrothermal metalliferous sediments are relevant for separation and enrichment: high specific surface area, high specific gravity, and ferromagnetic signature. Small grains and low-density flocs have low terminal Stokes' velocities and their residency times may be extended in convective stratified brine pools; this observation affects the environmental analysis of mining operations and tailings disposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106720
JournalEngineering Geology
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Consolidation
  • Deep-sea mining
  • Hydrothermal sediments
  • Soil Classification
  • Stiffness
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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