Beijing: China's 'Jiaolong' deep-sea manned submersible returned from its maiden 118-day exploratory voyage to the Indian Ocean where it is reported to have discovered large deposits of precious metals like gold and silver.
During the latest mission, the Jiaolong successfully carried out 13 dives to observe different hydrothermal areas, the characteristics of hydrothermal fluids and deep-sea biodiversity, gathering a huge amount of data and more than 700 samples.
The sub discovered several new hydrothermal vents - deep-sea fissures which emit hot water. Its findings could help research into resources and environments of seafloor sulfide deposits that contain various metals.
Deep-sea "chimney vents", also known as hydrothermal sulfide, are a kind of seabed deposits containing copper, zinc, gold and silver.
Those metals formed sulfides after chemical reactions and came to rest in the seabed in the form of "chimney vents," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted scientists as saying.
Firming up its foothold in India's backyard, China has gained approval in 2012 to explore 10,000 sq kms of polymetallic sulphide ore deposit in an international seabed region of the southwest Indian Ocean.
The 15-year approval was secured by China from the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
China also has obtained exclusive rights to prospect in a 75,000 sq km polymetallic nodule ore deposit in the east Pacific Ocean in 2001.
Named after a mythical dragon, Jiaolong reached a maximum depth of 7,062 metres in the Pacific's Mariana Trench in June, 2012.
Following the mission, it was stationed at a new port belonging to the National Deep Sea Centre, which will be in charge of its future operations.
The centre began construction in 2013. It covers about 26 hectares of land and 67 hectares of sea in Jimo City, with an investment of 500 million yuan (USD 812,000) in the first phase.
Jiaolong will embark on a new expedition to the northwest Pacific between June and August.
China started the construction of its second manned sub which can reach a depth of 4,500 metres in 2013 for more deep sea research.