India’s Deep Ocean Mission
The Indian Government has launched an ambitious Rs 8000 crore plan to explore the deep ocean minerals in the Indian Ocean Region. The mission which will be coordinated by the Ministry of Earth Sciences aims to explore and exploit the polymetallic nodules on the seabed.?
What are the polymetallic nodules?
- Polymetallic nodules are small-to-medium potato type accumulations of several valuable minerals like cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel and iron hydroxide.??
- The polymetallic nodules are formed by years of accumulation and are found on the surface of the seafloor at the depth of about 6000 meters.?
- It is estimated that the total resource volume of the polymetallic nodules is worth 380 million tonnes (MT) and contains over 0.55 MT of cobalt, 4.29 MT of copper, 4.7 MT of nickel and 92.59 MT of manganese.
- The nodules are of a size of a few millimeters to a few centimeters. The minerals can be used for building electronic devices, smartphones, energy storage batteries, and solar panels.
What are the challenges before deep-sea mining?
- The government has strict and stringent guidelines in place for the exploration and production of polymetallic nodules.
- Primary environmental concerns are the resultant sediment plumes which will emerge when the mining will be carried out because the small suspended particles will block all sunlight which will harm the planktons & other associated surface feeders in the upper ocean layers.
- Other environmental concerns which have been raised due to the deep-sea mining due to light and noise pollution which will be due to mining vehicles and if, any oil spills which may occur from the operating vessels.
Economic Viability of Deep Sea Mining
As per a few estimates, deep-sea mining is expected to be commercially viable if the annual extraction exceeds three million tonnes per year. This will require substantial studies to understand the scale-up of technology for more efficient use.