Minerals in Indian Ocean can turn India self-sufficient in nickel, cobalt: International Seabed Authority chief

Gandhinagar: Vast mineral deposits in the Indian Ocean can make India self-sufficient in nickel and cobalt, a top official of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) said on Tuesday.

Nickel and cobalt are critical ingredients in the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric vehicles, which are zero-emission automobiles.

Praising the Indian government’s efforts in this direction through its “Deep Ocean Mission”, Michael W Lodge, ISA’s Secretary-General, also exuded confidence that India can become a global leader in deep sea mining.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of International Conference on Seabed Mining’, held at the Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar.

“India was one of the very first pioneer investors in deep sea mining, starting from the 1980s. In recent years, there has been enormous progress. Under the Deep Ocean Mission, India’s progress was phenomenal. India has the potential to become a global leader in deep sea mineral exploration and exploitation,” said Lodge.

Headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, ISA is an intergovernmental body of 167 member states and the European Union.

Lodge said he was “extremely encouraged” by the commitment at the political, scientific and technical level and said India can compete with any other country in this avenue.

“We are looking at hard minerals, such as polymetallic nodules and sulphides. They contain vast quantities of critical minerals needed for the global energy transition, particularly copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese,” he said when asked what minerals can be mined from the Indian Ocean seabed apart from crude oil and gas.

“India is not self-sufficient in nickel, and it can create a big problem for India unless you can develop a domestic supply.

But, the seabed contains all the nickel to meet India’s domestic demand, if India wants to become a leader in critical minerals globally, India has the potential to do that.

Similarly, India does not have any secured source for cobalt. But, the seabed offers that source,” he said.

ISA is mandated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole, says the ISA website.

In August 2022, a Press Information Bureau (PIB) release had stated that under the schemes “Ocean-Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART)” and “Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)” of the Union environment ministry, resource inventories for energy, fisheries, and minerals have been taken up.

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It was also said that the Government of India signed a 15-year contract with ISA for exploration of polymetallic nodules, which contain nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese, from the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 2002.

Extensive survey and other developmental activities have been carried out in 75,000-sqkm area retained by India in CIOB.

The Union green ministry has undertaken exploration and other developmental activities related to polymetallic sulphides in the Indian Ocean under a 15-year contract signed in 2016 with ISA, said a PIB release last August.

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