Mauritius’ ocean economy gets leg-up as India to explore minerals off island coast
The current project will be implemented in three continuous phases once the Government of India signs the 15-year contract with the ISA within a year. (Image: Mauritius Holiday Villas)
Mauritius’ thrust on an ocean economy already appears to be paying off as India is poised to start the exploration of mineral deposits, mainly polymetallic sulphides, along the 10,000 sq km mid-ocean ridge off Mauritius, following final approval by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
The application for a Deep Sea Mining Exploration License was lodged with the ISA by the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences in April 2013 and the approval for the plan of work for exploration was given in July 2014.
The sub-continental nation has long been providing international assistance to Indian Ocean islands in the course of its mining operations. In 1987, India discovered poly-metallic nodules in the Mascarene basin which were rich in iron and cobalt and communicated vital data on the composition of resources discovered to Mauritius and Seychelles.
The importance of natural mineral resources coupled with the fact that sea-beds have yielded deposits rich in such minerals as copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese, zinc, lead, barium, silver and even gold, can spell big bucks for Mauritius. The island nation can easily leverage on other countries’ expertise in deep sea mining to get access to deposits data and enrich its minerals base.
The current project will be implemented in three continuous phases once the Government of India signs the 15-year contract with the ISA within a year.
“We will be exploring hydrothermal activities and possible sulphide deposits, which have huge economic potential,” said Rajan, Director of National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, while addressing a plenary session at the ongoing World Ocean Science Congress (WOSC-2015), yesterday, February 08, 2015.
The Congress was jointly organised by Swadeshi Science Movement of Vijnana Bharati at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies.
The exploration is expected to lead to vast deposits of lead, zinc and copper ranging from several thousands to about 100 million tonnes.
The Ministry has given a submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf seeking to extend the country’s Continental Shelf Limit to 350 nautical miles from the current 200 nautical miles.
“This will allow the country to widen its area of exploration of large scale mineral deposits,” he concluded.
It may be noted that, for small island countries such as Mauritius and Seychelles, access to natural resources has and continues to play a critical role in shaping their economic and social development.
In this context, following a request for assistance from the governments of Mauritius and Seychelles in 2008, the Commonwealth Secretariat helped both countries to claim and secure rights to additional seabed covering over 400,000 square kilometres in the Indian Ocean.
As a result of this project, the governments of Mauritius and Seychelles secured joint rights to manage 400,000 square kilometres of additional seabed beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zones of the two member countries.
The project finally culminated in the two countries establishing the world’s first Joint Management Zone covering such an area, and a Joint Commission to coordinate and manage the exploration, conservation and development of the living and non-living resources of the seabed in the area.