Deep Sea Mining?
mining involves removing mineral deposits and metals from the ocean’s seabed.
to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the
extraction of mineral resources from the ocean below 200 metres is called deep
What are the proposed methods to conduct deep sea mining?
According to Deep Sea
Conservation Coalition (DSSC), an initiative formed in 2004 to safeguard
deep-sea ecosystems, the seabed can be mined in three ways:
- Extracting metals from polymetallic
nodules on abyssal plains:
Abyssal plains are under water plains on the sea floor. Polymetallic
nodules contain a variety of metals including manganese, iron, copper,
nickel, cobalt, lead and zinc, and small but significant concentrations of
molybdenum, lithium, titanium, and niobium, among others.
- Stripping cobalt crusts from seamounts: Scientists believe that under water
mountains formed through volcanic activity are potentially rich in cobalt.
Cobalt crusts accumulate at depths of between 400 and 7,000 metres.
Seamounts are also rich sources of iron, manganese, nickel, copper and
various rare metals, including rare earth elements.
- Extracting polymetallic sulphides from
hydrothermal vents: These
are also called sea floor massive sulphides and are rich in copper, iron,
zinc, silver and gold. Active hydrothermal vents are also homes to unique
ecosystems, containing chemosynthetic bacteria, giant tube worms,
crustaceans, molluscs and other species- many believed to be
endemic to the vents.
vents are fissures
on the seabed from which geothermally heated water discharges. They are
commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are
moving apart at mid-ocean ridges, ocean basins, and hotspots.
Seabed Authority (ISA):
It is an international organization established
in 1994 to regulate mining and related activities in the
international seabed beyond national jurisdiction, an area that includes
most of the world’s oceans.
The ISA came into existence upon the
entry into force of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea (UNCLOS), which codified international law regarding territorial
waters, sea lanes, and ocean resources.
Headquarters: Kingston, Jamaica
Members: As of May 2023, ISA has 169 Members,
including 168 Member States and the European Union.
The ISA is responsible for granting
licenses and regulating activities related to the
exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the international
Its ensures that these activities are carried
out in a manner that protects the marine environment and promotes the
equitable and efficient utilization of resources.
Key facts about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
UNCLOS, also called the Law of the Sea
Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty, is an international
agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime
It lays down a comprehensive regime of law
and order in the world's oceans and seas, establishing rules governing
all uses of the oceans and their resources.
UNCLOS became effective on 16th
UNCLOS covers a wide range of issues,
The definition of maritime zones,
such as the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone,
and the continental shelf.
The rights and responsibilities of
coastal states and flag states.
The conservation and management of
• The protection of the marine environment.
• The peaceful settlement of disputes.
UNCLOS created three new institutions:
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea: It is an independent judicial
body established by UNCLOS to adjudicate disputes arising out of the
International Seabed Authority: It is a UN body set up to
regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of
oceans in international waters.
Commission on the Limits of the Continental
facilitates the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of
the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) is a region spanning 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles) across the central Pacific Ocean at depths of 4,000 – 5,500 metres.
It is a habitat for cetaceans, including baleen
(mysticetes) and toothed whales (odontocetes).
Up to 30 cetacean populations, including
globally endangered species like blue whales, can be found in the CCZ, where 17
exploratory deep-sea mining licenses have already been granted.
India has been allotted a site of 75000 square Km in
the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the International Seabed Authority
(ISA) for the exploitation of Polymetallic Nodules (PMN).
Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
They are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance
carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead,
molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of
economic and strategic importance.
Deep Ocean Mission
With a view to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea
technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources, Cabinet Committee on
Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the proposal of Ministry of Earth Sciences
(MoES) on “Deep Ocean Mission” at an estimated cost of Rs. 4077.0 crore for
a period of five years to be implemented in a phase-wise manner.
The estimated cost for the first phase for the
three years (2021-2024) would be Rs.2823.4 crore.
Deep Ocean Mission will be a mission mode
project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of
of Deep Ocean Mission is to help India in achieving target of over Rs. 100
billion “Blue Economy” through its ocean resources.
Major Objectives of Deep Ocean Mission
To address issues arising from long term changes in the ocean due to
To develop technologies for deep-sea mission of living (biodiversity)
and non-living (minerals) resources
To develop underwater vehicles and underwater robotics
To provide ocean climate change advisory services
To identify technological innovations and conservation methods for
sustainable utilization of marine bioresources
To develop offshore based desalination techniques
To develop renewable energy generation techniques
To provide clean drinking water and explore the avenues of desalination
of water as well as extracting minerals from the ocean belt.
What are the Major Components of DOM?
Development of Manned Submersible Vehicle:
A manned submersible will be developed to carry
three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with a suite of scientific
sensors and tools.
NIOT & ISRO is jointly
developing a Manned Submersible Vehicle.
National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), an autonomous institute under
the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
Development of Technologies for Deep Sea
An Integrated Mining System will
be also developed for mining polymetallic nodules at those depths in the
central Indian Ocean.
The exploration studies of minerals will pave
the way for commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial
exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, a United Nations
Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory
It entails developing a suite of observations
and models to understand and provide future projections of important climate
variables on seasonal to decadal time scales.
Technological Innovations for Exploration and
Conservation of Deep-sea Biodiversity:
Bio-prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna
including microbes and studies on sustainable utilisation of deep-sea
bio-resources will be the main focus.
Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration:
It will explore and identify potential sites of
multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralization along the
Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
Energy and Freshwater from the Ocean:
Studies and detailed engineering design for
offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination
plants are envisaged in this proof of concept proposal.
OTEC is a technology that uses ocean
temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 metres, to
Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology:
It is aimed at the development of human
capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering.
It will translate research into industrial
application and product development through on-site business incubator
What is the Blue Economy?
Blue economy refers to the sustainable use of
marine resources for
exploration, economic growth, improved livelihoods, and transport while
preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystems.
In India, the blue economy encompasses a wide
range of sectors, including shipping, tourism, fisheries, and offshore oil and gas exploration.
80% of world trade happens using the seas, 40%
of the world’s population live near coastal areas, and more than 3 billion people access the
oceans for their livelihood.
What are the Steps taken by the Government to Promote the Blue Economy?
Deep Ocean Mission
India-Norway Task Force on Blue Economy for
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
National Fisheries Policy
Major concerns of Deep-Sea mining
Environmental impacts: Mining operations can disturb and
damage fragile deep-sea ecosystems, including coral reefs, hydrothermal vents,
and other important habitats.
Noise pollution: The process generates noise pollution that
can overlap with the frequencies at which cetaceans communicate, causing
auditory masking and behavioural changes in marine mammals.
Thermal pollution: The mining vehicles also generate sediment
plumes that could smother the benthic species at the bottom of the ocean.
Regulatory gaps: There is currently a lack of international
regulations governing deep-sea mining, which could lead to environmental harm
and other negative impacts.
Technological challenges: Deep-sea mining requires advanced
technologies and equipment that are currently under development, and may not be
cost-effective or efficient enough to make the practice commercially viable.
Social and economic impacts: The potential benefits of
deep-sea mining may not be evenly distributed, and could lead to social and
economic disparities between different communities.