UK Seabed Resources granted off shore mining license

March 14, 2013

UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin, announced that it had obtained a license to prospect for minerals on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to unveil the mineral-extraction project on March 14 at a seabed mining environmental workshop in London involving scientists and potential suppliers.

UK Seabed Resources said mining polymetallic nodules from the seabed could contribute around 40 billion lds to the U.K. national economy over a 30-year period and could provide opportunities for supply-chain companies here that already have North Sea oil and gas expertise.
An expedition to assess the potential environmental impact of extracting the nodules will be launched this summer amid concerns that massive "vacuuming" operations to harvest the nodules might cause lasting damage to ecosystems.

Under the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea, mining rights on the ocean floor are controlled by the International Seabed Authority, which since 2001 has issued 13 licenses - with another six in prospect, The BBC reported.

These licenses, valid for 15 years, have been bought for $500,000 each by government organizations, state-owned corporations and private companies from countries including China, India, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

The idea of off shore mining first surfaced in the 1970s but was dropped because the costs were too high and the technology could not cope.
The nodules are known to contain up to 28 percent metal - 10 times the proportion found on land.

Stephen Ball, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin UK, owner of UK Seabed Resources, says the engineering experience of offshore oil and gas operations and the trend to rising mineral prices have now combined to make seabed mining feasible.

"It's another source of minerals - there's a shortage and there's difficulty getting access, so there's strategic value for the UK government in getting an opportunity to get these minerals," he told the BBC.


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