China expanding seabed mining in Indian Ocean

The Chinese government is moving ahead with plans to expand its seabed mining activities in the Indian Ocean much to the dismay of India even as Beijing released oceanic science and technology development plans for the 2011-2015 period.

China yesterday said it planned to explore 10,000 sq km of seabed in southwest Indian Ocean for polymetallic sulphide ore, and that it may invest more to expand the "depth and scope of oceanic research".

The moves comes after India resisted Chinese pressure to abandon exploration in two Vietnamese oil blocks in the South China Sea by ONGC Videsh Ltd, saying the blocks belong to Vietnam and China's objection has "no legal basis."

Beijing said it has approval for seabed mining in the Indian Ocean and that China's Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association is all set to sign a 15-year exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) later this year.

The agreement will give China pre-emptive rights to develop the ore deposit in future, state-run Xinhua newspaper reported.

"We will expand the depths and scope of oceanic research and improve our understanding of the ocean, with special focuses on the polar regions and deep sea environments," Liu Cigui, head of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), told a meeting on oceanic technology in Beijing.