Kolkata: Scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered the presence of millions of tonnes of precious metals and minerals deep under the waters that surround peninsular India. The vast repository and the prospect of finding huge am-ounts of previously untapped resources in barely-exploited territory hold tremendous potential, say geologists.
The huge presence of marine resources was first identified off Mangaluru, Chennai, Mannar Basin, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and around Lakshadweep in early 2014. The amount of lime mud, phosphate-rich and calcareous sediments, hydrocarbons, metalliferous deposits and micronodules that geologists came across was a clear indication that more extensive exploration could lead to a larger treasure trove.
After three years of exploration, GSI has generated 181,025 square kilometres of high-resolution seabed morphological data and established the occurrence of more than 10,000 million tonnes of lime mud within the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.
It has also confirmed the presence of phosphate sediment off Karwar, Mangaluru and Chennai coasts, gas hydrate in the channel-levee system of Mannar Basin off the Tamil Nadu coast, cobalt-bearing ferro-manganese crust from the Andaman Sea and micro-manganese nodules around Lakshadweep Sea.
Three state-of-the-art res-earch vessels — Samudra Ratnakar, Samudra Kaustabh and Samudra Saudikama — carried out this investigation, which was named 'High Resolution Seabed Mapping and Natural Resource Evaluation'.
Ashish Nath, superintendent geologist at GSI, said: "The main objectives were to identify potential zones of favourable mineralization and evaluate marine mineral resources to benefit all stakeholders in the field of mining and geology, specifically industries based on cement, paint, fertilizer, construction and rare earth element."
The results have been mapped and sent to the ministry of mines for appraisal. An enthused ministry, meanwhile, has asked GSI to induct another vessel with shallow water drilling capability by early 2019 to undertake mineral investigation with deeper penetration for 3D modelling of mineral resources and geo-technical investigations.
Apart from geo-scientific research, GSI has also partnered with security agencies to help in investigations, said Nath. "We have helped the National Investigation Agency investigate the Kerala offshore in the Iranian boat case and aided the completion of the probe through scientific inputs. Another survey was done with the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard in the search for IAF's AN-32 aircraft that went missing during its flight from Chennai to Port Blair. Then, there was a short survey off Visakhapatnam for locating a sunken Navy ship using technology installed in one of our vessels," he said.
For three years, GSI has been scouring the seabed within the country's jurisdiction for mineral deposits. It was asked by the ministry of mines, to which it reports, to investigate the underwater potential because of the depleting reserves below the earth's surface. Till date, only 5% of the deep-sea floor, which covers about 60% of the earth's surface, has been properly explored, say scientists.
The GSI, headquartered in the city, is the country's repository of geo-scientific information and mineral resources assessor. It was established in 1851 to identify coal deposits for the railways.