India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years.

These rights are over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters allocated by International Seabed Authority for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules.

The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese.

While, the extraction of metals from the polymetallic nodules lying at the deep ocean floor is not yet found to be economically viable at this stage, an area of about 7860 square km has been identified in the CIOB for the first generation mine site on the basis of detailed surveys and analysis.

Environmental studies for mining of deep-sea polymetallic nodules were also carried out to evaluate the possible impacts of mining on deep-sea environment.

A remotely operable submersible (ROSUB 6000), capable of operating at 6000 m water depth was also developed and tested at a depth of 5289 m.

Furthermore, a remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment was developed for obtaining detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area at CIOB and tested at 5462 m water depth.

A mining system is under development which has been tested for 500m water depth. Metallurgical process routes for extracting copper, nickel and cobalt from polymetallic nodules have been developed and tested in a demonstration pilot plant set up on semi-continuous basis at Hindustan Zinc Limited, Udaipur with a capacity to process 500 kg nodules per day.