The global race for resources is heating up, with the latest frontier being the seabed beneath the world’s oceans. Last year’s discovery of significant Rare Earth deposits by Japanese researchers on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean seems to have set of a flurry of activity on the part of countries trying to gain access to what is considered a treasure trove of metals and minerals. Not surprisingly, China, which is engaging in a global quest to gain access to critical mineral resources, threw its hat in the ring earlier this year, with a goal to develop its deep-sea mining technology by 2030.
Not to be outdone, and concerned that “China’s deep-sea excavations will further increase China’s dominance over rare-earth elements,” India has reportedly made the decision to spend roughly $135 million on a new exploration ship and to retool another vessel for another for “sophisticated deep-water exploration off its coast.”
According to the Science and Development Network, the seabed in the region holds promise for Nickel, Copper, Cobalt and potentially Rare Earths exploration.
New Zealand, too, is mulling seabed exploration efforts according to the New Zealand Herald, with the seabed around the country’s shores containing Iron, Manganese, Gold, Silver, Copper and Zinc, among others.
With more and more countries jumping into the fray, deep-sea mining is beginning to sound less and less like a chapter of a Jules Verne novel. However, it is not, as some were quick to conclude last year, the silver bullet to (China-induced) mineral supply woes. Environmental concerns aside – technological challenges and the political question of who owns the seabed “commons” still loom large, and would dictate that in order to secure access to critical mineral resources, the immediate focus should be placed on the mineral riches we are blessed to have beneath our own soil.