South Korea has secured the exclusive right for the manganese pavement exploration mine lot called “black bonanza under the sea,”’ which contains a variety of metals used as a basic material in the high-tech industry.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) gave the final approval to Korea’s exclusive right for the mine lot in the area of Magellan seamounts in open waters of the western Pacific, at its 22nd general assembly, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The manganese pavement is a mineral resource created by metals in seawater being stuck on the surface of seamounts, containing cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese, and other minerals. These metals are used as materials in electronics, electric, steel, and other industries. The manganese pavement secured this time by Korea has been drawing the interest from countries around the globe for its high rare earth resources content, since the resources are the basic metals needed essentially for materials in the optical-glass lenses, electric car batteries and other high-tech industries.
Moreover, while the existing manganese nodule, the Korean government secured in the Pacific open waters, is spread in the basin of deep seafloors at a depth of 4,500 meters to 5,000 meters, the current manganese pavement secured this time is located only at a depth of 800 meters to 2,500 meters, resulting in a much cheaper mining coast. The total area of the manganese pavement exploration lot that the government exclusively has secured this time is about 3,000 ㎢, and it is estimated to have some 40 million tons of manganese reserve. When it enters into a commercial production of 10 million tons per year, it is expected to replace imported major minerals worth of 6 trillion won (US$5.2 billion) for 20 years.
The Korean government, after getting the approval from ISA, is planning to sign a survey contract with ISA in 2018, and to select about 1000㎢ area as the final promising mine lot (final allotted mine lot) after 10 years of detail survey. A full commercial production to be led by the private sector will begin after the selection.
The Korean government have been working on the deep sea mineral resource development as a means of expanding marine economic areas and securing steady sources of natural resources. According to the government, the manganese pavement mine lot secured this time is the 5th monopolized sea-mine followed by the Pacific open water manganese nodule, the seafloor hydrothermal deposit in the open water of the Indian Ocean, Tonga Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) seafloor hydrothermal deposit, and Fiji EEZ seafloor hydrothermal deposit. Korea secured a total 1.15 billion ㎢ of marine area for economic activity with the recent approval. In addition, South Korea has become the third country after China and Russia to secure the exclusive exploring sea-mine of three kinds of minerals (manganese nodules, seafloor hydrothermal deposit, and manganese pavement) in the deep sea of the open waters.