In line with its efforts to expand its footprint in the strategically important Indian Ocean, India has got a go-ahead from the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of minerals in another 10,000 sq km area in the South-West Indian Ocean.
New Delhi already has exploration rights in around 75,000 sq km area in the Indian Ocean.
The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has submitted an application with the ISA, a UN body that administers mineral resources in the international seas and regulates deep-sea mining activities, for getting exploration rights in 10,000 sq km area.
According to ministry sources, the proposal was cleared by the ISA at its meeting last month and now it will be submitted before the UN Assembly in July for a final approval.
New Delhi had made a similar representation to the Jamaica-headquartered ISA in July. “We got the ISA approval for exploration rights in 10,000 sq km area in South-West India Ocean and now it will go to the UN Assembly for final approval,” the sources said adding that following the ISA clearance the rest was now just a formal process.
In 2002, India had got exploration licence for polymetallic nodules, which apparently contain many valuable minerals such as copper, zinc, gold, silver and nickel, in the central Indian Ocean.
The licence is set to expire in 2017 and New Delhi is in trying to assess whether it needs to get the same renewed. Having a hold in the South-West Indian Ocean is also important to India from the security point of view since China already has its presence in the key ocean waters.
Beijing along with the other Western countries was among the first few countries to have got licences to explore the mineral-rich Indian Ocean in 2001.
Infact, China has exploration rights for minerals in the North-East Pacific and South-West Indian Ocean. The offshore exploration of minerals is of utmost importance to countries like India and China since the mineral resources on land are fast-depleting.