China has taken the lead in exploring the Indian Ocean for minerals, securing a 2011 contract with the International Seabed Authority for the exclusive right to explore for valuable sulphide minerals.
China on Monday deployed its undersea exploratory submersible to hunt for much sought-after mineral deposits in the Indian Ocean in what will be its longest-ever deployment.
DETAILS ABOUT THE EXPLORATION
China has taken the lead in exploring the Indian Ocean for minerals, securing a 2011 contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for the exclusive right to explore for valuable sulphide minerals in a vast area of the southern Indian Ocean.
The latest exploration, which set off on Monday from the port of Qingdao, will focus on the northwest Indian Ocean, and also explore the South China Sea and the western Pacific Ocean. India is currently carrying out explorations in the central Indian Ocean for minerals.
The Indian Ocean contains vast deposits of minerals and strategically important Rare Earth Elements (REEs), prompting a number of countries including India to carry out exploration projects.
While the International Seabed Authority has not yet paved the way for exploiting minerals, securing exploration contracts allows for exclusive exploration rights. Besides the Indian Ocean contract, China has two other exploration contracts in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
India so far has one exploration contract in the Indian Ocean, which is thought to be less explored than the Pacific. India is also developing its own under-sea submersible that, like the Jiaolong, can reach depths of 7,000 metres.
The Jiaolong's 124-day trip until June 9 will be the longest for the submersible. In 2015, the submersible carried out a 118-day stay, during which it gathered 700 samples and discovered "an active chimney vent" on the Indian Ocean floor, which is thought to contain deposits of gold, silver, copper and zinc.
He Zongyu, the Deputy Director of the China Ocean Mineral Resource Research and Development Association (COMRA) that is leading the country's exploration effort, told India Today that a 2015 survey suggested the Indian Ocean carried vast mineral deposits.
Countries like Japan, Germany and China have aggressively gone forward with seeking exploration contracts, particularly because of the prevalence of Rare Earth Elements that are crucial for a range of technologies ranging from computers and mobile phones to defence industries. China already controls more than 90 per cent of rare earth production on land.