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Russia signs contract for exploration of cobalt-rich 3,000 sq km section of Pacific bed

March 12, 2015, 5:19 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
The section may have 30-35 million tonnes of resources
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UNITED NATIONS, March 12. /TASS/. Russia has been granted an exclusive right to conduct prospecting works at a cobalt-rich Pacific bed section of 3,000 square kilometres in area near the Magellan Seamounts, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection Denis Khramov said on Wednesday.

A relevant contract was signed between Russia and the International Seabed Authority in New York on March 10. The 15-year contract provides for exploration for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust.

Khramov said the area allocated to Russia consists of 150 blocks, each having an area of 20 square kilometres and located at a depth of about 5,000 kilometres in international waters. "No one can now claim the right to explore this promising section," he said. "So, we have managed to take the sweetest slice in the cake. We have a contract for 15 years. What does it mean? It means that in 15 years we must turn in part of this territory and will be allowed to keep only 50 most promising blocks we will have the right to explore until they are exhausted."

He said the section may have 30-35 million tonnes of resources. "When prospecting works are over and the amount of resources is clear, it will be possible to choose most efficient technologies to extract mineral resources from these ores," Khramov said, admitting however that as of today there were no technologies to extract mineral resources at such a depth. "Mineral production at such a depth is more difficult than space exploration. It is not even tomorrow, it is the day after tomorrow. It is the most advanced area of technological progress because to create a production system that would walk on the bottom at a depth of five to six kilometres, extract ore, lift it to the surface and enrich it up there - it seems much like science fiction," he noted.

Despite all the difficulties that might be, he underscored, it was important for Russia to explore territories located far away from it. "We can always be able to explore and use our own resources. Let us try to work on common heritage," he added.

The 1,200-kilometre Magellan Seamounts Range crosses the Marianas Basin of the Pacific from the northwest to the southeast, from the Marianas Trench to the Marshal Island. It is a part of the world’s largest assemblage of intraplate paleovolcanoes at the oceanic lithosphere.

The application for an exploration contract was approved by the Council of the International Seabed Authority on 21 July 2014.

The blocks are grouped into clusters with each group of blocks /clusters/ consisting of five contiguous blocks and forming 30 clusters with a total exploration area that does not exceed 3,000 square kilometres.

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