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Deep down

Deep down

The fact that space exploration is a reality but deep-sea exploration isn't, has always provided food for thought. For long, all the data collected around the deep-sea exploration has been kept under wraps by the United Nations International Seabed Authority (). In essence, the UN body is assigned to promote the mining of the sea-floor but it is also charged with its protection in equal weight. Maybe that explains why sea-floor mining has not yet been pursued aggressively by nations despite an increasing economic interest over the same. But with the kind of sustainable development that the world seeks, progress in deep-sea mining is inevitable. To this length, India's possession of a site of 75,000 sq. km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin by UN ISA for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN) augurs well for the country's exploration ambitions. The Deep Ocean Mission (DOM), at the cost of 8000 crores and extending over a span of five years, will explore the ocean and look for metals and minerals. Led by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the mission on paper is due to start by October-end and will involve a multitude of stakeholders such as the Department of Science and Technology, DRDO, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Agricultural Research working together in the integrated programme. Though the prime focus would be PMN, DOM will facilitate the institution of an offshore desalination plant based on tidal energy and development of a submersible vehicle capable of going to a depth of at least 6000 metres with three people on board. DOM will look forward to extensive mining of PMN. PMN–also called manganese nodules–are rock concentrations on the sea bottom formed of concentric layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a core. High deposits of metals and vast quantities of nodules present on the sea-floor, PMN has garnered high economic interest which is in a direct equation to fulfilling energy requirements. Metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, cadmium, vanadium, molybdenum, titanium, et al will be very important takeaways from the ocean floor. It is argued that for sustainable energy requirements, India has a prime alternative to tap its sea-floor reserves and utilise it to power the nation. But deep-sea mining is a daunting task and plans drawn up to successfully initiate such activity would utilise the best minds anticipating all the hiccups in the process. Deep-sea is yet an unexplored territory and, like space, there lie many things that are not known with the possibility of it being beneficial or detrimental on equal scales. But, India would benefit from the same in mass proportions should it successfully harness the good out of the ocean-bed.

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