Minmetals to plunge into deep-sea mining

By Zhang Qi (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-17 09:17
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Minmetals to plunge into deep-sea mining

An advertisement for China Minmetals on a street in Beijing. One of the company's subsidiaries has stepped up research into deep-sea mining. [Photo / China Daily] 

BEIJING - China Minmetals, the country's largest metals trader, said it has carried out research and development (R&D) work into deep-sea mining exploration and exploitation, a move designed to meet the country's growing demand for minerals and metals.

Changsha Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, a subsidiary of Minmetals as well as a key national laboratory in the development and utilization of deep-sea resources, has stepped up research in underwater mining for manganese nodules, multimetal sulphides and cobalt-rich manganese crusts, Zhou Zhongshu, president of Minmetals, told China Daily.

"China relies heavily on costly raw-material imports, and this will push the country to go for deep-sea mining to explore metals including copper, nickel, sliver and gold," he said.

"It will be profitable if we can sell deep-sea exploited raw ores priced at more than $80 per ton," he said.

Deep-sea mining takes place about 1,400 to 3,700 meters under the ocean's surface, creating sulfide deposits, containing precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc.

The Canadian company Nautilus Minerals Inc suggests the deep ocean produces several billion tons of metals each year, including vast amounts of copper.

China filed the first application to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for deep-sea mining in the Indian Ocean in May 2010, and it is awaiting approval.

But the country still lags behind international rivals. Nautilus Minerals and Australia's Bluewater Metals have already kicked off exploration of underwater mountain ranges in the South Pacific. Nautilus plans to start full-scale operations in 2012.

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Zhou from Minmetals said the country should establish a trial ocean economic zone at home and also develop ocean mining exploration overseas.

China is focusing on exploration and exploitation of the deep sea to obtain more minerals and oils to meet the demands of a high-growth economy.

Liu Baohua, a geophysicist at China's State Oceanic Administration, said at an earlier conference that China will increase funding for R&D in deep-sea technology and list the target in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).

Although the country hasn't started operations in deep-sea mining, it has already made progress in deepwater oil production.

China National Offshore Oil Corp, the country's largest offshore oil company, said that it will step up exploration in the South China Sea this year and plans to raise deep-sea oil production to 10 percent of global production.