India makes its claim for sulphide mining from the Indian Ocean

Arun Janardhanan | The Times of India

India has made its first ever claim before the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for the exploration of poly-metallic sulphide from the Mauritius seas.

Prior to country’s first ever seabed exploration for sulphides, a preliminary study has been completed with the help of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) in the Rodriguez Triple Junction, a geologic junction in the southern Indian Ocean where three tectonic plates meet, near Mauritius. The junction has been named after the island of Rodrigues which lies nearby the African Plate.

A senior earth science ministry official said the claim proposal has already been sent to ISA. “We are awaiting a response from the ISA, an autonomous international organization established under the 1982United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “We already have a dedicated region in the Indian Ocean region for the mining purpose. For any further extension or new explorations beyond the designated sub basin region, we have to make a claim through ISA to avail rights for mining. This is all about administering the resources of the sea and now we are in the queue,” said the official.

Before submitting the proposal India has completed a survey using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) in the deep sea region near Mauritius. M A Atmanand, director of National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) said any clearance from the ISA will be based on the demand and capability of the country in mining exploration in the past. “We have prepared a profile consisting experience in the sector, based on extensive experience in the seabed mining in the designated Indian Ocean basin. Since the sulphides contain a lot of minerals, clearance for the exploration from ISA will help us to meet the demand for rare earth metals,” he said.

India has been mining magnesium nodules from the Indian Ocean basin for quite some time. According to the senior scientist, ongoing mining explorations for cobalt, nickel and magnesium satisfies the Investment Ratio of Return (IRR) in the sector, which is measured by investment gains that compare favourably to investment cost. While cobalt and nickel are largely being used as an ingredient in the making of steel products, cobalt is also used as a radioactive material.

Any clearance from ISA includes larger political lobbying too. “It is similar to that of a real estate industry or cybersquatting where a lot of small islands and countries play the game of ownerships and claims they have made years ago,” said an official.

But the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country which is around 200 nautical miles from the shores doesn’t have a potential mining region. The ISA lists more than 100 high-potential sulphides exploration sites in the high seas and at least 25 of them are having high-temperature black-smoker venting. “Preliminary studies conducted by the NIOT and NCAOR captured videos of these black-smoker regions using its advanced ROV equipments,” said a senior NIOT scientist.
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