Polymetallic Nodules Current Affairs - 2019

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Samudrayaan project: NIOT to Launch Deep Sea Exploration & Mining Mission

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) will launch ‘Samudrayaan project by 2021-22 to explore the deep sea region. It is pilot project of Union Ministry of Earth Sciences as part the Rs 6000 crore ‘Deep Ocean’ mission for deep ocean mining of rare minerals.

Samudrayaan project

It proposes to send indigenously developed submersible vehicle with three persons to a depth of about 6000 metres to carry out deep underwater studies.  It will be undertaken by the NIOT, Chennai and is in line with ISRO’s ambitious ‘Gaganyaan’ mission of sending an astronaut to space by 2022. It is expected to become a reality by 2021-22. The indigenously developed submersible vehicle developed as part of this project is capable of crawling on sea bed at a depth of 6km for 72 hours. Whereas, currently submarines deployed can only go about 200 metres deep into the sea. The project will go deeper in phases with more trials and ocean mining is expected to commence in 2022. The expenditure of this ambitious project is expected to be around Rs 200 crore.

Significance of Project: If it is successful, India will join selected league of developed nations in the exploration of minerals from deep oceans. Developed countries have already carried out such missions. India could be 1st developing country to undertake such a project.

Background

International Sea Bed Authority (ISBA) has allocated India75,000 sq km site in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for exploration of polymetallic nodules from seabed. The estimated resource of polymetallic nodules in this site is about 380 million tonnes, containing 92.59 million tonnes of manganese, 4.29 million tonnes of copper, 4.7 million tonnes of nickel and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt.

ISA extends India’s exclusive rights to explore Polymetallic Nodules

The International Seabed Authority (ISA) in its 23rd session recently held at Kingston, Jamaica has extended India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).

These rights extend over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters allocated by ISA for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules. The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential of this area is around 380 million tonnes, containing nickel (4.7 million tonnes), copper (4.29 million tonnes), cobalt (0.55 million tonnes) and manganese (92.59 million tonnes).

Background

India was the first country to receive the status of a pioneer investor for exploration and utilization of polymetallic nodules. It was allocated an exclusive area in Central Indian Ocean Basin by United Nations (UN) in 1987. India is one among the top 8-countries to implement a long–term programme on exploration and utilization of Polymetallic Nodules. Through Ministry of Earth Sciences it carries survey and exploration, environmental studies, technology development in mining and extractive metallurgy.

Polymetallic nodules

Polymetallic nodules (also called as manganese nodules) are small potato-sized (from millimetres to tens of centimetres in diameter) lumps of minerals found in deep sea. They contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, cadmium, vanadium, molybdenum, titanium in various proportions of which nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance. They are found in abundance carpeting the sea floor of world oceans in deep sea.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

ISA is a UN body set up to regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters. It was established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Its headquarters are in Kingston, Jamaica.

Its mandate is to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond limits of national jurisdiction (exclusive economic zone), an area underlying most of world’s oceans. India actively contributes to the work of ISA. It was re-elected as a member of Council of ISA in 2016.