India Sees Mining Opportunities Under Ocean Bed

Ocean floor is the mineral bounty – zinc, iron, silver and gold and India is catching up with that only now, as it prepares to unearth treasures down below, aiming to boost its economy.

The floor of the world’s seas is scattered with vast beds of black potato-shaped polymetallic nodules comprising copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron and rare earth elements.

These natural goodies are key to making modern gadgets, from smartphones and laptops to pacemakers, hybrid cars and solar panels.

As expanding technology and infrastructure fuel global demand for these resources – whose supply is dwindling fast onshore – more and more countries, including manufacturing powerhouses India and China, are eyeing the ocean.

“For the future of mankind … the ocean is the only hope,” he said.

India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is going full steam ahead in anticipation of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) – a UN body that oversees mining on the high seas – giving the green light for commercial exploitation, Reuters said.

Captain Nemo appeared to get one thing wrong, however, in asserting deep sea minerals “would be quite easy to exploit”.

Over the next decade, the Indian government plans to pump in more than $1 billion to develop and test deep-sea technologies like underwater crawling machines and human-piloted submarines, according to the earth sciences ministry.

It will require large, remote-controlled machines capable of combing the seabed and collecting the rocks. Not to mention a system of transporting tonnes of rock to the surface,” Carsten Rühlemann of Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) told The National in a 2013 interview.

If it works, for India the equipment will be able to reach depths of up to 6km, where metals can be 15 times more concentrated than in land deposits.

The ISA allows India to explore an area in the Indian Ocean of 75,000 square kilometres, equal to about 2 per cent of the country’s size.

Once thought to be too costly and difficult, industrial-scale sea mining could begin as early as 2019.

India’s goal is to become self-reliant in the minerals, and it is “not in a race with anybody”, he added.

“We are exploring Mars, we are exploring the moon, why don’t we explore our own oceans?” he said.