New Delhi: India is to establish a "strategic presence" in the area of deep sea mining by plumbing the depths of the ocean to hunt for rare earths or minerals needed for high-technology uses - an area where China and the US are among the few countries to have ventured so far.
Announcing this at a media briefing, Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Ashwani Kumar said that deep sea mining is an area of special focus for the government.
"India is to create its strategic presence in the field of deep sea mining. China, the US, Korea and Russia are the only few countries that have ventured in the area… India is competing in deep sea mining to further its interests," Kumar said.
He was addressing newspersons after a high-level meeting to discuss "the future roadmap for key initiatives in the frontier area of science in critical sectors".
Kumar said that elements "like titanium and platinum that are found in the ocean depths are used in space technology and ship building" among other things.
He said the mining would be done at a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean bed to hunt for nodules of rare earths. The hunt would also be able to discover new drugs.
One vessel, the Sagar Nidhi, is already deployed for deep sea mining, while the ministry of earth sciences is getting a South Korean vessel and another Indian ship, manufactured at Surat, for the purpose, he said.
"The principal objective is to access wealth of the oceans," he said, adding: "China has already made its presence felt in the area of deep sea mining."
The search would be in an area of 2,500 km in international waters as per approval of the International Sea Bed Authority, Kumar informed.
The decision to push forward in deep sea mining was one of three "critical" areas identified at Wednesday`s meeting for special focus.
The other two areas are: high-power computers at low cost and translating the research work into results that are of use to the common man, said Kumar.
He acknowledged the "weak interface" between the research done by academics and the R&D institutions.
He also said that discussions were on in the area of "futuristic research" where the country could get a head start over others.
The focus of super computers would help in accurate weather forecasting, he informed.
"The super computer will be integrated into normal monsoon forecasting. Weather forecasting will be made more effective," he said.
He said that science and technology was an area where the government had special focus in order to face the challenges of the 21st century and "as per the prime minister`s directive, resources is not an issue".