Panaji: The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is all set to launch ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ by January 2018, which is expected to improve India’s position in ocean research field, M Rajeevan, Secretary, MoES said here on Tuesday.

Mr. Rajeevan, who is also chairman of the Polymetallic Nodules Assessment Committee was addressing a workshop on ‘Three decades of India acquiring Pioneer Investor Status — Achievements and way forward’ at the CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography(NIO).

The program on poly metallic nodules was initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian Sea on board the first research vessel Gaveshani on January 26,1981. India was the first country in the world to have been given the pioneer area for exploration of deep-sea mineral, namely, polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 1987.

“This was based on the extensive surveys carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO, on several research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 sq km to the country with exclusive rights under the UN Law of the sea. Subsequently, environment impact assessment (EIA) studies for nodule mining by CSIR-NIO, development of metal extraction process by CSIR-National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur, and CSIR-Institute for Minerals and Metals Technology, Bhubaneswar, and development of mining technology by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, have been taken up under the national program on polymetallic nodules funded by MoES”, said NIO Director VSN Murthy.

Based on the resource evaluation, India has now retained an area of 75,000 sq km with an estimated resource of about 100 million tons of strategic metals such copper, nickel, cobalt besides manganese and iron.

A FGM (First Generation Mine-site) with an area of 18,000 sq km has been identified. Latest technologies for extraction of metals from the minerals have also been developed.

“We have done EIA. We have done basic experiments on pilot scale since 1997. For economic exploration, the NIOT, Chennai is getting ready with the technology and they may start with mining in next five years,” Mr. Murthy told The Hindu.

He said that besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the programme has also resulted in high impact research as well as manpower development. Detailed environmental data has been collected for compliance with International Seabed Authorities requirements. This is required as the mining activity on large scale should not adversely affect the coast of other countries in the neighbourhood.