China / Innovation

China bids for rights to search seabed

By Wang Qian (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-06 07:53

China may gain the exploration rights to search for metallic mineral resources in certain West Pacific Ocean seabeds in 2013 if the International Seabed Authority approves its application, Chinese authorities said on Wednesday.

According to the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association, on July 27 it applied to the ISA, a United Nations body that oversees mining in international waters, to search an area of about 3,000 square kilometers in the West Pacific Ocean.

ISA confirmed the application on Aug 31 on its website.

After 15 years of research into the mineral resources, called cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, mainly in the West Pacific Ocean, the 3,000-sq-km area was selected after full consideration, Li Bo, deputy director of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association, or COMRA, said on Wednesday.

COMRA offers an equity interest in a joint venture arrangement with ISA and will share at least 20 percent of its profits in the applied area with ISA in later exploration.

According to the seabed authority, it will sign a 15-year contract with China after approving the application. After eight years of exploration, China must give up exploration rights on 33 percent of the approved area and after 10 years, will only be allowed to explore about 1,000 sq km for future commercial mining.

"Although no countries can realize commercial mining in the deep seabed exploration for mineral resources, gaining the exploration rights for the seabed will provide potential strategic mineral reserves for the country," Li said, adding China is accelerating its pace of deep-sea mining.

In June, Jiaolong, China's manned submersible, reached its record depth of 7,062 meters in the Mariana Trench, proving China has the technical capacity to explore 99 percent of the world's ocean floor.

"We will learn from the successful experience of Jiaolong in the deep-sea mineral resource mining, but it is a long way to go," Li said.

Cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts are usually found on the flanks and summits of seamounts, about 2,000 meters below sea level, throughout the world's oceans, which are composed of mineral resources such as manganese, cobalt, copper and rare earths.

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