KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – Expanding its deep-sea mining operations, India has started exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the southern Indian Ocean.
According to officials in India's Department of Science and Technology, the mining operations have been taken up following a 15-year mining licence granted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) last year, under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea.
The mining licence would extend across 10 000 km2 of seabed across geological formations in the southern Indian Ocean stretching close to the Mauritius coastline, the official added.
Since receipt of the mining licence in 2014, a large amount of data and visuals have been collated across the deep-sea mining tectonic plates and exploration was being jointly implemented by the National Institute for Ocean Technology and the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research using remote operated vehicles with depth capabilities up to 6 000 m.
Preliminary investigations showed that the polymetallic sulphides could hold resources, such as copper, iron and lead, in addition to smaller concentrations of silver and gold.
India's latest expansion into deep-sea mining was in line with its policy adopted to two years ago to create a stockpile of "strategically critical input metals" or rare earths to compete with China’s rising dominance and control over production and marketing of rare earths.
India’s commencement of deep-sea polymetallic sulphides mining was also seen to be a direct response to China.
China in 2012 secured approval from ISA for the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association to undertake polymetallic sulphides exploration in the South West Indian Ocean Ridge, which India considered its own strategic area of influence.
Officials said India was also expected to bolster its deep-sea mining technology from Japan, including the acquisition of vessels under the Indo–Japan Strategic Dialogue Framework, which, among others things, sought to increase exploration and production of rare earths through collaborations and joint ventures.