Kochi: India will soon start exploration of mineral deposits, mainly polymetallic sulphides, along the 10,000 sq km mid-ocean ridge off Mauritius following approval from the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
"The exploration will actually begin after the Government of India signs a 15-year contract with the ISA within a year.
"We will be exploring hydrothermal activities and possible sulphide deposits, which have huge economic potential," National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research Director Dr S Rajan said Sunday while addressing a plenary session at the ongoing World Ocean Science Congress (WOSC-2015).
The Congress is jointly organised by Swadeshi Science Movement of Vijnana Bharati here and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies.
An application for Deep Sea Mining Exploration License was lodged with the ISA by the Ministry of Earth Sciences in April 2013 and approval for the plan of work for exploration was given in July 2014. The project will be implemented in three continuous phases from the date of agreement, he said.
The exploration is expected to lead to vast deposits of lead, zinc and copper ranging from several thousands to about 100 million tonnes.
The hydrothermal fluids, when mixed with the cold surrounding seawater, are precipitated onto the chimney vents leading to the formation of massive deposits of lead, zinc and copper, Rajan said.
The Ministry has given a submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf seeking to extend the country's Continental Shelf Limit to 350 nautical miles from the current 200 nautical miles. This will allow the country to widen its area of exploration of large scale mineral deposits,he said.
National Institute of Ocean Technology Director Dr M A Atmanand, addressing the session, said the institute has taken up a number of projects for the benefit of society including beach restoration, weather forecast, tsunami warning, desalination and generation of renewable energy.