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India’s pursuit of critical minerals: Deep-sea mining for a sustainable future

India is accelerating its efforts to explore the vast potential of valuable minerals concealed beneath the ocean’s surface, a move that could play a pivotal role in fostering a greener future.

With existing deep-sea exploration licenses in the Indian Ocean, India is now seeking additional permits amidst intensifying global competition for critical minerals. Major powers like China, Russia, and India are racing to tap into the extensive mineral resources such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese, crucial for producing renewable energy technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and batteries aimed at combating climate change.

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The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an organization affiliated with the UN, has issued 31 exploration licenses, with 30 currently active. Member countries are convening in Jamaica to discuss regulations governing the issuance of mining licenses.

India’s new applications include exploring polymetallic sulphides in the Carlsberg Ridge and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the Afanasy-Nikitin Seamount. However, the ISA has raised queries regarding jurisdiction and environmental concerns, underscoring the complexity of deep-sea mining.

India’s proactive stance reflects its commitment to harnessing the vast mineral wealth of the Indian Ocean. With nations like China, Germany, and South Korea already engaged in deep-sea exploration, India is keen to assert its prowess in this domain.

Despite concerns raised by environmentalists about the potential ecological impact, proponents argue that deep-sea mining presents a viable solution to meet escalating mineral demands. They contend that land-based mining operations face challenges such as diminishing quality and environmental degradation, making deep-sea exploration a compelling alternative.

However, critics caution against the irreversible harm that deep-sea mining could inflict on largely unexplored marine ecosystems. Calls for a halt or temporary suspension of deep-sea mining underscore the need for thorough research and careful consideration of environmental consequences.

As India and other nations navigate the complex terrain of deep-sea mining, striking a balance between resource exploitation and environmental preservation remains paramount.

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