Deep sea mining robot passes test

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Deep sea mining robot passes test


Korea hopes to become a pivotal player in the underwater mining business after the successful testing of the country’s first deep sea mining robot.

The Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries said yesterday that the robot named MineRo completed a maneuverability test at a depth of 1,370 meters (4,500 feet) in waters off Pohang, North Gyeongsang, on the nation’s southeastern coast last week.

Ultimately, MineRo is supposed to be able to operate at depths of 5,000 meters.

The MineRo is a 28-ton robot that the country spent 23 billion won ($20.4 million) to develop over 10 years.

According to the ocean ministry, Korea has an exclusive right to develop a 75,000 square-meter zone located some 2,000 kilometers southeast of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, after getting approval from the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in 2002.

The area, better known as the Clarion-Clipperton zone, is estimated to hold up to 560 million tons of manganese nodule deposits, worth some $370 billion, according to the ministry. The volume is enough to collect minerals for the next 100 years, it added.

MineRo is designed to be used in that zone collecting manganese nodules, which also contain minerals like copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese.

The Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (Kiost) said the successful test of MineRo will hasten Korea’s plan to start mining at a depth of 2,000 meters in the waters by 2015. The ministry said it also will beef up refining technology to extract the other minerals from the manganese nodules.

Once the related technologies are developed and ready for commercialization, the ministry estimates it can save about 2 trillion won of imports and generate an economic impact worth 6 trillion won along with the creation of 24,000 jobs.

In addition, the ministry hopes to export mining equipment in the future.

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