India's Rs 10k-crore plan on deep ocean mining, research

India's Rs 10k-crore plan on  deep ocean mining, research
India is readying a Rs 10,000-crore plan to intensify its deep ocean research and mining programme as research vessels from China and Taiwan continue to frequent the strategically important Indian Ocean.

The ambitious plan — nuts and bolts of which are likely to be finalised in a meeting in Delhi in the first half of July — will see involvement of almost all government scientific departments over the next five years to increase India’s research presence in the high seas.

Last year, India signed a 15-year contract with the International Sea Bed authority for deep sea mining of 10,000 sq km in the central Indian Ocean.

The mining would be for potato-shaped polymetallic nodules that carry valuable metals like cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese and zinc. One of the thrust areas in the programme is to develop a deep sea mining submersible, which can dive 4-6 km into the ocean for harvesting these nodules.

“We want a deep sea mining crawler that can take out the nodules, crush them on the spot, mix them with water and pump it back to the surface. Since we don’t have such technology, we are in talks with Japan,” Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary M Rajeevan told DH.

This is the second piece of real estate in the Indian Ocean where India invested its resources. In 1987, the then department of ocean development had acquired exploration and research rights for a 75,000 sq km area in the central Indian Ocean basin to look for polymetallic nodules.

“In these years, we have been able to properly identify the area, carry out necessary environmental checks and develop some of the technologies. But we still lack deep sea mining expertise. A brainstorming session is planned here on July 10,” he said.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences currently owns five research vessels, two of which are old and need to be replaced at a cost of Rs 600 crore.

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