NCPOR to conduct deep ocean surveys soon

Last year, the Department of Earth Sciences launched a deep-ocean mission of Rs 4,000 crore to explore the ocean, expanding studies of climate change, understanding marine biodiversity along with mineral richness and more focused research. Under this mission, the Goa-based National Polar and Ocean Research Center will conduct ocean surveys to track hydrothermal minerals.

John Kurian, NCPOR’s chief scientist, talks to Anjali Marar about the planned experiments.

What are the objectives of conducting hydrothermal mineralization experiments?

Exploration of hydrothermal minerals in the deep ocean worlds is a major sub-component of the Deep Ocean Mission. It aims to explore, locate and identify valuable mineral deposits in the mid-ocean ridge formed through the process of hydrothermal circulation. As the nodal agency for program implementation, NCPOR is responsible for high-end geophysical exploration to identify areas of mineralization.

What are the responsibilities of NCPOR as the nodal agency?

NCPOR plans to conduct high-resolution geophysical surveys near the sea floor and take micro-geological sampling at drilling sites in parts of the hills of central and southwestern India. This includes deploying an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and remotely operated vehicle (ROV), seafloor sampling using TV-guided grabs and optical and audio imaging by the Seafloor Observation System, among others. NCPOR has also been entrusted with the responsibility of building a new all-weather research vessel, equipped with the latest scientific and exploratory instruments under this mission.

Although experiments with hydrothermal mineralization began in the 1980s, how will the deep-ocean mission prove the research?

The first discovery of metal-bearing hydrothermal vents on the sea floor was located above the Galapagos rift in 1977 (Corliss et al., 1979), and before that very little was known to the scientific community about deposits of precious metals in the deep sea. sea ​​field. The advancement of technology and scientific knowledge makes it easier to explore more areas in a more efficient manner. Advanced technologies such as deep-water AUVs and ROVs are capable of diving to a depth of 6000 metres. It is equipped with high-resolution sensors that are being deployed in our hydrothermal deposit expedition.

Will climate change and ocean warming have any effect on mineral mineralization?

Hydrothermal circulation and mineralization result from deep crust or mantle processes. Climate change and global warming do not have any profound effect on the mineralization process.

Can you share previous experiences and any preparatory work before the Deep Ocean mission?

NCPOR commenced exploration activities for hydrothermal mineralization in parts of the foothills located in central and southwestern India during 2012-2013. The initial objective of the exploratory surveys was to assess the potential of hydrothermal activity in the area as not many explorations were undertaken in this area. The area is in the past compared to other hills such as the mid-Atlantic or Pacific ridges.

Initial exploration provided important clues about hydrothermal venting and mineralization processes at many sites along these ridges. We have obtained promising results from preliminary surveys and more intensive geological exploration activities have been carried out in the area. During the comprehensive geological surveys conducted over the subsequent years, we were able to identify more than a dozen number of promising sites for possible hydrothermal deposits.

What experiments have been completed as part of the Deep Ocean Mission?

A comprehensive plan is planned to conduct high-resolution surveys near the sea floor using advanced AUV and ROV technologies at these locations. The component under the Deep Ocean mission, which aims to identify and accurately identify hydrothermal mineral deposits, is planned for a period of five years. The projected total cost over a five-year period is approximately Rs 300 crore.

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