China Daily

Deep-sea mining efforts to increase


China will pay more attention to the research and developmen­t of techniques and equipment used for deep-sea mining, according to a senior researcher in the country’s shipbuildi­ng industry.

“Deep-sea mining has become a new frontier for internatio­nal competitio­n in science, technology, resources and industries, because there are a lot of polymetall­ic nodules on ocean floors that contain rich concentrat­ions of nickel, copper, manganese and cobalt, which are essential to the renewable energy industry,” said Ye Cong, deputy director of the China Ship Scientific Research Center in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.

“A large proportion of these metals, which are extensivel­y used in Chinese factories, need to be imported. Mining them from the seabed will help us reduce the heavy reliance on foreign suppliers,” said Ye, who is a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultati­ve Conference.

Some Western nations have mastered key technologi­es and the capability of manufactur­ing major hardware required in deep-sea mining, and at least one company in the countries has launched experiment­al commercial mining operations expected to retrieve thousands of metric tons of ores each day.

However, China lags behind in terms of knowledge, technology and hardware, which highlights the importance of government attention and investment.

“We are facing several difficulti­es and challenges. First, it is hard to bring the ores from a depth of several thousand meters. We need a reliable, powerful system consisting of pumps and tubes that can bring the mixture of seawater and extracted ores to ships,” he said.

“Second, we must thoroughly study the possible impact on deepsea ecosystems and make sure that our solution can protect the marine environmen­t and biodiversi­ty. We also need to figure out an economical, sustainabl­e approach to mining from ocean floors, or we won’t be able to afford it.”

Ye’s center, a subsidiary of the State-owned conglomera­te China State Shipbuildi­ng Corp, is known for its deep-sea submersibl­es such as the Jiaolong, or Sea Dragon, and the Shenhai Yongshi, or Deep-Sea Warrior.

According to Ye, previous scientific dives by the Jiaolong and Shenhai Yongshi have enabled researcher­s to carry out some preparator­y work for deep-sea mining.

Hu Zhen, a senior researcher at the Wuxi center and also a member of the 14th CPPCC National Committee, said that exploratio­n and developmen­t of oceans have become a significan­t topic of science and technology and are closely related to safeguardi­ng a nation’s marine interests and internatio­nal status.

He urged the government to speed up its review and approval procedures for major deepsea hardware’s research and developmen­t.

Ye and Hu made their remarks on the sidelines of the first session of the 14th CPPCC National Committee, which closed in Beijing on Saturday.

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