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India Joins Deep-Sea Mining for Clean Energy



  Mar 21, 2024

India Joins Deep-Sea Mining for Clean Energy



Context:

India has submitted additional applications to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for deep-sea exploration licenses in the Indian Ocean. This move reflects India's strategic focus on securing a reliable supply of critical minerals essential for clean energy technologies, aligning with its ambitious renewable energy goals and net-zero emissions target.


Motivations for Deep-Sea Exploration:

Securing Critical Mineral Supply: Deep-sea mineral resources like cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese are vital for manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries. Deep-sea mining offers India an opportunity to lessen dependence on traditional suppliers and mitigate potential geopolitical risks associated with resource concentration.

Addressing Land-Based Mining Challenges: Traditional land-based mining of these minerals often faces limitations due to resource depletion, environmental concerns, or conflicts in resource-rich areas. Deep-sea mining presents an alternative source for these crucial materials.


Global Landscape and Regulatory Considerations:

● The ISA, established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), governs deep-sea mining in international waters. India's additional applications could potentially elevate its exploration license count to rival Russia and approach China's position.

● Deep-sea mining remains a controversial topic. Environmental groups express concerns about the potential for irreversible damage to fragile deep-sea ecosystems, given the limited scientific understanding of these environments. The ISA is currently deliberating regulations for issuing mining licenses, with some member states advocating for a more cautious approach and a deeper understanding of the environmental risks before large-scale mining commences.




Competing Interests and International Collaboration:

● The United States, not a party to UNCLOS, is currently not involved in international water deep-sea mining ventures. However, the US participates in the Minerals Security Partnership, an international collaboration focused on responsible practices throughout the critical minerals supply chain, potentially encompassing future deep-sea mining activities.

●To address the technological challenges of deep-sea mining, India has established a strategic partnership with Russia for developing the necessary expertise and equipment.


Conclusion:


India's foray into deep-sea exploration underscores its commitment to securing its clean energy future and addressing resource security concerns. However, navigating the environmental considerations, international regulations, and technological hurdles will be crucial for India's success in this domain.



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