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China to explore Indian Ocean seabed: report
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 3, 2011

China has won the right to explore for minerals in part of the Indian Ocean as the energy-hungry country scours the world for resources to fuel its fast-growing economy, state media said Wednesday.

The International Seabed Authority has approved China's application to look for polymetallic sulphides -- rich in copper, iron, lead, zinc, gold and silver -- in the Southwest Indian Ocean Ridge, the China Daily said.

China is the first country to win such approval in the area that divides the ocean between Africa and Antarctica, it said, citing the government-backed China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRRDA).

"The refined metals from the deposit will help China meet the increasing demand for mineral resources from rapid economic development," Jin Jiancai, secretary-general of COMRRDA, was quoted as saying.

China will be allowed to explore an area measuring 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 square miles) for 15 years and will be given priority mining rights. A contract is expected to be signed in November, the report said.

The International Seabed Authority, a United Nations' body, said it approved China's application for deep seabed exploration last month along with others from Russia and the Pacific Island nations of Nauru and Tongo.

COMRRDA also has a similar agreement to explore for polymetallic nodules -- small nuggets containing metal ore -- in an area of the northeastern Pacific where a Chinese submersible conducted the country's deepest manned dive.

The Jiaolong undersea craft -- named after a mythical sea dragon -- reached 5,057 metres (16,591 feet) below sea level in the test dive last month, the State Oceanic Administration said.

China has pushed hard in recent years to obtain oil, minerals and other resources needed to fuel its growth, and has said its submersible programme is aimed at scientific research, peaceful exploration and the use of natural resources.

Scientists say the oceans' floors contain rich deposits of potentially valuable minerals, but the extreme depths pose technical difficulties in harvesting them on a wide scale.

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