India, Russia partner in deep sea research and mining

Indian and Russian agencies have decided to partner in deep sea research and exploration to develop technologies and capacities to gather minerals from the ocean floor

August 2, 2019

India set to launch ‘Samudrayaan’, a 3-man submersible vehicle capable of travelling for 72 hours and reaching depths of 6 km

The objective of the Deep Ocean Mission is to boost India’s deep sea exploration capabilities and related technology innovation

NIOT Chennai will tie up with Krylov State Research Centre, Russia, to develop machines for gathering minerals from the ocean floor

‘Samudrayaan’ is designed to withstand extreme pressure and collect ‘polymetallic nodules’ found on the ocean floor

Indian and Russian agencies have entered a partnership in deep sea exploration that will lead research and development in technology innovation and minerals excavation from the ocean floor. India is set to launch ‘Samudrayaan’, a manned submersible vehicle capable of reaching depths of 6 km. This vehicle will also feature a ‘human module’ that can house three people for up to 72 hours. Offshore exploration of minerals is expected to become the next big frontier in natural resources utilisation. 

The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai, that is developing the vehicle, stated the importance of this venture in the field of deep ocean research. NIOT already possess an operational unmanned submersible vehicle with robotic arms, with the unofficially named ‘Samudrayaan’ being currently developed to further exploration capabilities. Several projects from the NIOT as well as the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, deal with the study and analysis of deep seas. 

In light of the Deep Ocean Mission, to be launched on October 31st, the Government is weaving these programmes into a comprehensive approach to deep sea exploration. The objective of the US$1.1 billion mission is to boost India’s deep sea exploration capabilities, for research and mining purposes. The NIOT, Chennai, is set to collaborate with Krylov State Research Centre in Russia to develop technologies as well as human capabilities for gathering minerals from the ocean floor. 

A preliminary agreement was recently signed to jointly develop the technologies required for deep sea mineral mining, including collaboration on the development of ‘Samudrayaan’. At depths of 5,500 meters below sea level, the ocean floor is rich with ‘polymetallic nodules’ yielding metals such as copper, nickel, manganese, and cobalt. However, extreme pressure at this level demands a submersible capable of withstanding it long enough to effectively gather these nodules and transport them to the surface. 

By combining Krylov’s capabilities with NIOT’s knowledge, the two bodies aim to achieve the submersible’s first round of testing on the Indian Ocean bed by February 2020.

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