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China Minmetals Group recently became the first Chinese company to gain the right to explore and mine underwater, according to China News Service (CNS).

The Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) on July 20 approved the company’s plan to explore and mine an undersea area of nearly 73,000 square kilometers in the East Pacific Ocean, CNS said.

On Aug. 8, 2014, China Minmetals submitted its application for the exploration of poly-metallic nodule resources to the ISA, which was established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, CNS said.

The company said it plans to sign a 15-year exploration contract with the ISA for the undersea areas that are believed to have millions of tons of mineral resources, including manganese, cobalt, nickel and copper.

Apart from conducting environmental surveys and economic evaluations, China Minmetals will also be responsible for training technology personnel, under the contract, the company said.

Industry experts said seabed exploration of mineral resources is inevitable for China, since the country relies heavily on foreign imports and has seen restricted economic development as a result.

Several companies have expanded into undersea exploration in recent years, including Canada’s Nautilus Minerals, which has had underwater mining rights near Papua New Guinea for 15 years.

The Canadian company plans begin productions in 2017 at a copper-gold mine it discovered in the region, CNS said.

The Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute also acquired rights for underwater exploration in the economic zones of Tonga and Fiji, according to CNS.

Deep sea mining technology has been developing rapidly to tackle issues like water pressure and sea water erosion, and industrial robots have been introduced for undersea mining, CNS said.

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