Deep sea exploration
NIOT is working on the design and development of crawler-based mining equipment capable of collecting and pumping nodules from depths up to 6 km. Photo: Reuters

India's ambitious Deep Ocean Mission is all set to be launched later this year. In a major development towards deep sea exploration, a country made craft will dive down deep into central Indian Ocean to search for better known minerals. Notably, this will be the first time in history when India will be mining the seabed at a depth of 6,000 metres.

Last month, the government has launched ₹8,000-crore plan to explore deep ocean minerals. Dr Madhavan Rajeevan, Secretary, Union Ministry of Earth Sciences had said, "We finally have the in-principle approval to go ahead with the mission. Now expenditure plans will be drawn up and circulated [to various institutions affiliated to the Ministry] for executing programmes and we hope to launch by October 31."

English daily The Times of India reported that the giant 12-tonne crawler with metals such as cobalt, nickel and copper. The activity will be carried out around 6,000 km away from Indain shores. If the trails goes as per the plan than India will become their country after China and South Korea to have developed the technology to mine polymetallic nodules.

The entire deep mining system will be tested in phases starting later this year. A prototype will be ready by 2022 as per M A Atmanand, director, National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), which is developing the technology. "The first stage test with the pumping system will collect nodules from the seabed. We will pump it out again in the same location," he added.

India will be exploring potato-shaped polymetallic nodules or manganese nodules which is a source of nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and iron. The exploration will be done in 75,000 sqkm region in the central Indian Ocean basin. India has signed a contract with The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to explore minerals for around 15 years. The licence was extended for another 5 years in 2017.

The government is putting up efforts to ensure a sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth. Recently, Dr Madhavan Rajeevan has said, "Government is focusing on blue economy in terms of sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth. The Deep Ocean Mission will help in leveraging blue economy for economic growth."