Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Deep Sea Mining | Rodriguez Triple Junction (RTJ)

Why in news?
India has begun an exploration for mineral deposits and precious metals like gold and silver in the Indian Ocean. 

Where is the exploration being carried out?

The country's first ever seabed exploration for polymetallic sulphides is being done in the Rodriguez Triple Junction (RTJ), a geological junction in the southern Indian Ocean where three tectonic plates meet near Mauritius.

Details of the project

  • The country has been granted 10,000 sqkm near RTJ for seabed exploration of polymetallic sulphide, a mineral deposit with three or more metals in commercial quantities. 
  • The license to conduct exploration for 15 years was granted in 2014 by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai and NCAOR will jointly take up the second level of exploration soon. 
  • While mapping the seafloor, a robotic arm will collect samples of rock and sediment on the seafloor for scientific studies. 
  • The exploration will also help in studying the chemosynthetic bacteria which forms the base of the food chain. 
  • Exploration is a long, step-by-step process that my take up to 15 years. 
    • For now, only exploration rights. Based on exploration, mining rights will be sought.

How is the mining done?

Source: Times of India
  • The process involves a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that identifies hydrothermal vents, which are fissures on the surface, commonly found near active volcanic areas associated with tectonic structures. 
    • ROSUB 6000, a work class underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with a depth rating of 6,000 m developed at NIOT will be deployed. 
  • At RTJ, scientists involved in the planning of the exploration said that there are BLACK SMOKERS, a kind of hydrothermal vent that emits particle laden fluids, plumes and they also eject minerals
    • ROSUB will capture videos with its high resolution cameras from a distance of about 1.5 metres, as the black smokers vent eject hot fluid that have high temperature of 350 to 375 degrees Celsius.

What are Poly-metallic sulphide?
  • Polymetallic sulphide commonly hold copper, iron and lead, besides gold and silver in lesser quantities.
But wasn't India already mining something from the deep sea?
  • Yes, India has been mining magnesium nodules from the Indian Ocean basin. 
  • The mining exploration is for cobalt, nickel and magenisum.
    • While cobalt and nickel are largely used in making steel products, cobalt is a radioactive material.

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