Growth history and formation environments of ferromanganese deposits on the Philippine Sea Plate, northwest Pacific Ocean



Abstract  Hydrogenetic ferromanganese crusts are widespread on the floor of the northwestern Pacific Ocean, south and east of the Japanese Islands, despite vigorous tectonic activity, such as subduction and back-arc spreading, since at least the Mid-Paleogene over the Philippine Sea Plate region and nearby. The crusts occur mainly at water depths shallower than 3000 m, but also at greater depths of up to 6000 m. Fine-scale 10Be/9Be dating was undertaken on several 5–10 cm thick hydrogenetic ferromanganese crusts sampled from different geological environments, including inactive submarine volcanoes, tectonic escarpments and abandoned rifts. The results indicate that the crusts have grown at relatively constant rates of 4–7 mm/my without any significant time breaks. These uniform and constant growth rates suggest that the basins have been exposed constantly to oxygenated bottom waters since their formation in the Middle Miocene (ca 15 Ma) or earlier. Local geological or oceanographic environmental changes might have slowed or increased some of the growth rates resulting in correlation of some internal structures. The Philippine Sea Plate region could have economic potential in areas of thick hydrogenetic ferromanganese crusts over a wide range of water depths.