India will soon join the league of nations scouring the ocean floors for mineral wealth, with an ambitious Rs10,000-crore Deep Sea Mission, likely to commence by the year-end.
An inter-ministerial and inter-disciplinary project, the Deep Sea Mission will explore the country's exclusive economic zone to mine mineral wealth beneath the ocean floor, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, said in New Delhi today.
''It is expected to begin from end of the year year,'' Nair said on the sidelines of a programme to mark the commencement of ship building by Titagarh Wagons Ltd, adding that a cabinet note on the project is under preparation.
With global demand for metals like iron and copper expected to quadruple by 2050 and producers already being forced to dig deeper to extract less concentrated deposits, ocean floors are seen the last mining frontier on earth.
Rajeevan said India is open for technical tie-ups with several countries in this regard. He said that the mission intends to harness the ocean's resources in a 'responsible way' and could turn out to be a transformative step for the prosperity and security of the nation.
The project would have huge impact on the country's deep ocean energy, deep sea fishing and mineral exploration projects among others, Rajeevan said.
The Rs2,000-crore sea water desalination project at Chennai coast is also being taken up under the mission that aims to eliminate potable water problem for the city.
The exclusive economic zone allotted to India in the international waters covers an area of 2.4 million sq km while the oceans that surround the Indian peninsula have over 1,300 islands. Besides, India has seven and a half thousand km of coastline. Together, these contain enormous opportunities in energy, food, medicine and a host of other natural resources, the official said.
China, meanwhile, is working on deep sea mission for mining mineral deposits in the Indian and Pacific oceans.