Deep ocean mission to explore deep oceans around India for metals.
Union ministry of earth sciences announces a new venture, “deep ocean mission” to explore deep oceans around India for metals.
Deep Ocean Mission – Need
- Deep-sea explorations means the exploration of physical, chemical, and biological conditions on the sea bed, for scientific otherwise commercial
- Deep-seaexploration is considered as a somewhat recent human activity compared to the other areas of geophysical research, as the depths of the sea have been investigated only during comparatively recent years.
- The ocean depths still remain as a largely unexplored part of the planet, and are an undiscovered domain.
- Teleoperated Robotics is one of the safest ways to explore deep waters since a remotely operated robot vehicle (ROV) becomes the diver’s eyes and extends manipulation in extreme environment.
Deep Ocean Mission – Challenges
- Decompression sickness means the diver must ascend to the surface rather slowly otherwise gases will be forced in his tissues resulting in painful death.
- Another problem with deep ocean human exploration involves dangerous marine organisms.
- Using teleoperated robotics is thus the safest approach besides Atmospheric Diving Suits (ADS) which are human shaped (anthropomorphic) submarines.
Deep sea technologies in India (CSIR-NIO)
- The deep ocean has abundant mineral resources like polymetallic nodules, cobalt rich manganese crust and hydrothermal deposits.
- Utilising this mineral wealth for the benefit of mankind will be the focus of ocean mining activities in this century.
- India has a status of Pioneer Investor and has been allotted a site in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA) for exploration and technology development for polymetallic nodule mining.
- The program on Poly metallic nodules was initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian Sea on board the first Research Vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981.
- India was the first country in the world to have been given the Pioneer Area for exploration of deep-sea mineral viz. Polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 1987.
- This was based on the extensive surveys carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO, on several research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 sq km to the country with exclusive rights under the UN Law of the sea.
- Polymetallic nodules have economically valuable metals such as Copper, Cobalt, Nickel and Manganese in them and are viewed as potential resources to take care of the depleting land resources and increasing demand of these metals.
- There are 380 million tons of nodules in the retained Indian Pioneer area.
- However development of deep subsea technology for mining these resources is a major challenge considering the ultra high pressure environment, very soft soils and other factors.
- NIOT has been working on a mining concept where a crawler based mining machine collects, crushes and pumps nodules to the mother ship using a positive displacement pump through a flexible riser system. Technologies used are:
- Sub-sea Solids Pump System (1032 m depth)
- Remotely Operable In-situ Soil Tester (ROSIS)
- Universal sub-sea latching system,
- Sub-sea transformer,
- Portable In-situ Soil Tester (POIST)
Deep Ocean Mission 2018
- The proposed inter-ministerial and interdisciplinary project is expected to begin from December 2017.
- The mission intended to harness ocean resources in a “responsible way” and could turn out to be a transformative step for the prosperity and security of the nation.
- The exclusive economic zone allotted to India in the international waters will be covered under the deep ocean mission.
- The oceans that surround the Indian peninsula have over 1,300 islands.
- This gives India, 7,500 km of coastline and 2.4 million square km of exclusive economic zone.
- They also contain enormous opportunities in energy, food, medicine and a host of other natural resources.
- China is also working on a deep sea mission for mining mineral deposits in the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
- The Ministry also confirmed the participation of seven premier science agencies including NIO, ISRO and DRDO in the venture.
- Major components of the project are:
- Deep Ocean Energy,
- Desalination Plant Along The Chennai Coast,
- Deep Sea Science And Fisheries,
- Minerals and Poly-metallic Nodules.
How will this help India?
- With this mission, there will be innovation in engineering and technologies for mining as India will strive to meet new challenges.
- India has now retained an area with an estimated resource of about 100 million tons of strategic metals such copper, nickel, cobalt besides manganese and iron. This will bring India to the forefront of deep sea exploration and will help boosting the economy.
- Besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the programme has also resulted in high impact research as well as manpower development.
- The project would have a huge impact for the benefit of the country’s deep ocean energy, deep sea fishing and minerals among others.
- It will help India maintain its status of Pioneer Investor in deep sea exploration.
- Information from deep-ocean exploration can help predict earthquakes and tsunamis and help in understanding how we are affecting and being affected by changes in Earth’s climate and atmosphere.
- Unlocking the mysteries of deep-sea ecosystems can reveal new sources for medical drugs, food, energy resources, and other products.
- Ocean exploration can improve ocean literacy and inspire young people to seek careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.