Korea has secured exclusive rights to explore a deep-sea mine in the western Pacific Ocean, the government said Wednesday.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA), which governs mining activities in international waters, approved the country's plan to excavate 3,000 square kilometers of manganese crust on the ocean floor during a recent annual session at ISA headquarters in Jamaica.
Citing preliminary research, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said an estimated 40 million tons of crust is enriched with commercially valuable minerals, such as cobalt, manganese, nickel, copper and rare earth metals.
"We are expected to win sales rights from ISA on those minerals once we find them and go through relevant procedures," said Son Seung-kyu, a director at KIOST, a research arm of the oceans ministry.
He also anticipated that the country will be able to save costs in excavating the minerals, saying that manganese crust stretches along seabed ranges between 800 meters and 2,500 meters below sea level.
"The accessibility to our mine is relatively easier than other mineral reserves in the deep sea and it will save us time and money," he said.
The government said the country will be able to reduce mineral imports worth 6 trillion won ($5.2 billion) for the next 20 years if 1 million tons of minerals are produced there every year.
Korea now has the sole rights to explore five deep-sea mines with a combined size of 115,000 square kilometers.
The remaining four mines are located in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Tonga and the EEZ of Fiji.
The country first won the rights to excavate minerals in 2008 at a mine in the EEZ of Tonga.
"Considering our high dependency on energy imports, our mining project in the western Pacific Ocean will be critical to expanding our naval mining activities and ensure a stable supply of minerals," the government said in a press release. "We'll actively participate in international efforts for sustainable development of energy resources as well."