• In the 1870 Jules Verne classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, underwater explorer Captain Nemo predicted the mining of the ocean floor’s mineral bounty – zinc, iron, silver and gold.
• 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.
• India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is going full steam ahead in anticipation of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) a U.N. body that oversees mining on the high seas giving the green light for commercial exploitation.
• Captain Nemo appeared to get one thing wrong, however, in asserting deep sea minerals “would be quite easy to exploit”.
Clean power generation
• 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.
• In according to the earth sciences ministry. If it works, the equipment will be able to reach depths of up to 6 km (3.7 miles), 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 (about 29,000 square miles), equal to roughly 2% of the country’s size.
• Industrial-scale sea mining could begin as early as 2019.
• Canada’s Nautilus Minerals is on track to become the first company to start operations, which it plans to launch near the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea, according to a company statement.
• All countries are as yet in the experimental or exploratory phase, and the ISA is still hammering out regulation and royalty terms for commercial mining.
Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Prelims level: ISA and its license grants to India
Mains level: India’s deep sea missions