Deep under the gaping oceans, amidst the magnanimous aquatic ridges and seamounts, lies an explicitly unique and quiet ecology that withstands headstrong and contradicts our common conventional wisdom. Adhering the same, this barely unexplored or enigmatic enclave is believed to hold huge quantities of valuable metals and minerals which, can almost serve as an illimitable treasure trove for the modern world.
Leading mining corporations all across the world have started ramping plans for conducting rigorous metal and mineral extracting programs on the ocean floor. Due to the rapid advances of technology, underwater mining for extraction of metals and minerals have also been taken into consideration along with deep sea oil drilling. Following here, we would like to unfold the story on how underwater gold mining operations is gaining importance as a prominent way of procuring the hidden or lost gold treasures and deploy the same for meeting public demand.
The entire mining process, popularly known as deep sea mining is conducted in bedrock of the ocean and also considered to be one of the leading-edge methods, including excavation of minerals from the seabed. Though a myriad of anticipations and speculations have been made on the concept of ocean floor mining, however, in these past few years, it has appeared to be an apparently viable option for scientists and researchers due to the drastic technological refinements.
Generally, two conventional mining methods are considered for mining of gold and other precious metals in the sea floor namely, the Hydraulic pump method and the Bucket system which, extracts the ore directly from the seabed to surface and process it accordingly. The excavation method involves creation of a series of vents in the sea bedrocks which, might adversely pose serious danger for both the aquatic ecology and terrestrial dry plains as deposits of the Earth will be removed from their respective areas.
How the Deep Sea Metal & Mineral Mining Industry is Evolving Globally?
With an eye on the recent scenario, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has issued 7 new licenses in last week of July which, will allow nations to dig out the riches lying on the floors of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. This decision made by the Authority officials sent massive ripples all around the world and several nations who were looking for an opportunity to acquire the underwater riches welcomed the call.
Both federal-sponsored and state-owned mining companies of UK, USA, India, France, Russia, Germany, Singapore and China sought permission for gold mining in the prospective underwater regions. 4 licenses have been already granted by the ISA for the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean, situated between Mexico and Hawaii and the Magellan Seamount region, nestled in the Southern Atlantic. UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, the US Defence Giant has acquired exploration rights of an area which, is larger than almost the total area of UK. ISA has opened a total area of 1.2 million square kilometres of seabed by now, which seems to be almost 1/3rd of the total area of India for excavation of metal and mineral deposits under 26 licenses being issued since 2001. They have also granted contracts of almost 25 nations, thereby allowing them to explore the ocean floors for metal and mineral mining.
A Brief on the Story of World's First Ever Seabed for Metal & Mineral Mining
Being one of the pioneer seafloor miners of the world, Nautilus Minerals of Canada is about to commence operations on underwater mining on the coast of Papua Guinea for its Solwara 1 gold, copper and silver project by early 2019. This spearheading Toronto-based organization has also been working on another underwater project on the coast of Mexico has stated that all the undersea mineral mining tools required for this mammoth-sized, gruelling operation will get ready by the mid of next year and thus, will be able to kickstart its operations accordingly. Furthermore, they avowed that they will be sending robots to extract the plenteous amount of gold and copper deposits under the jurisdiction of Papua New Guinea.
How the Deep Sea Gold Mining Industry is Flourishing in India?
Alike many of the prospective nations, India has already commenced its first deep sea mining project way back in 2016 for precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver, zinc, iron, manganese in a region, situated at a close proximity of an active volcanic region in the southern part of Indian Ocean, where other nations like Germany, China and Korea have opened up their projects. Scientists are taking pride in the fact that this progressive move has introduced the nation into the panel of elite nations that have already initiated their deep sea mining operations across the Pacific, mid-Atlantic and Indian oceans.
The National Centre for Antartic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) has collaborated with the National Institute of Ocean technology in 2013-2014 for conducting a comprehensive, scrupulous survey in the South West and Central Indian Ridges to craft a map for excavation of polymetallic sulphides. Later in Sep 2016, India Government have signed 15 year contract with the ISA for attaining exclusive rights to initiate their exploration operations in a total area of 10000 sq kms, situated near the Rodriques Triple Junction (RTJ) in the southern part of Indian Ocean where lies the convergence point of 3 tectonic plates. A panel of 25 scientists of NCAOR has initiated their operation on the exploration of polymetalic sulphides in April, 2018 and has been making significant progress so far.
As per the words of M. Ravichandran, director of NCAOR "We have to first see if there is any economic benefit in bringing these resources to our land because it is a much bigger task. But that's a long way to go,", it can be concluded that the arena of deep sea mining for excavation of metals and minerals is just in its budding stage and we need to surpass a myriad of challenges and hindrances to fulfill our objectives.