Polymetallic Nodules & Deep Ocean mission | UPSC Notes

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What are Polymetallic Nodules ?

  1. Polymetallic nodules are Fe-Mn oxide deposits, potato shape, porous, black earthy colour with size ranging from 2 to 10 cm in diameter
  2. These are considered as the precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from deep interior of the oceanic crust, discharged through mineralized paths.
  3. Copper and zinc are the most likely metals to be recovered, but some deposits exhibit significant gold (0–20 ppm) and silver (0–1200 ppm) grades as well.
  4. These Rare earth minerals are considered as the great source of valuable minerals such as gold, silver and zinc. It also contains valuable rare-earth metals which used as an essential ingredient in electronic devices and gadgets.

India — what it has done regarding Polymetallic Nodules ?

  1. India signed a 15-year contract for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (PMN) in the Central Indian Ocean Basin with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) on 25th March, 2002

ISA is Jamaica based 

  1. *Presently, India is having an area of 75,000 sq.km, located about 2000 km away from the southern tip for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules.

Importance — 

  1. Due to its geographical location, India is the only country having exclusive rights over one site out of three sites for polymetallic nodules in the central Indian Ocean.
  2. Vital significance to India in terms of enhanced presence in the Indian Ocean water where other major international players are also active.
  3. Open up new horizons for resources of commercial and strategic value in the area beyond national jurisdiction.
  4. Boost to the blue-economy.
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Economic significance

  1. Employment opportunities skill-sets and capacities
  2. Empowerment of coastal communities and attaining greater social and economic inclusion.
  3. New development in electronics industry.
  4. Providing a boost to coastal and national economies 
  5. Promoting entrepreneurship in new areas of economic activity
  6. Development of blue economy and diplomacy.
  7. Sagarmala project will enhance the exploration.
  8. It will also open new doors for mining of oil and gas reservoirs which are potent for India’s energy security.

Strategic Significance 

  1. Counter to China — as of now China is controlling more than 95% of the Rare Earth Metals 
  2. Strengthen up the bilateral ties with Japan, Germany and South Korea 

Deep Ocean Mission 

Deep ocean mission UPSC
  • ‘ISRO-like’ Ocean exploration
  • Centre draws up a five-year, ₹8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences unveiled a blueprint of the ‘Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)’

 Proposed key deliverables to achieve these goals –

    * Establish an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy

    * Developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 metres

    * The focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, underwater vehicles, underwater robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among other aspects.


  1. India has been allotted a site of 1,50,000 sq. km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).
  2. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  3. India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million sq. km and in the deep sea, lies unexplored and un-utilised
  4. Constitutional Provision  
  5. India was the first country in the world to have been given the Pioneer Area for exploration of deep-sea mineral — PMN
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