India’s Application to Explore Nikitin Seamount (GS-1 Mains)

Question : “Discuss India’s application to explore the Nikitin Seamount and the associated concerns and benefits.


  • India applied to the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) for exploration rights in the Indian Ocean seabed outside its jurisdiction.

About Nikitin Seamount (AN Seamount)

  • Location: Central Indian Ocean, 3,000 km from India’s coast
  • Size: 400 km long, 150 km wide
  • Depth: Rises from 4,800 km to 1,200 meters
  • Resources: Rich in cobalt, nickel, manganese, and copper (established by surveys)

Reasons for India’s Application

  • Potential of Indian Ocean:Vast potential for mineral reserves motivates India to explore the seabed.
  • Increasing Need for Critical Minerals:
    • World Bank projects a fivefold increase in critical mineral extraction by 2050 for clean energy technologies.
    • India’s renewable energy targets require securing critical minerals.
  • Geopolitical Concerns:China’s dominance in processing critical minerals raises concerns.

Extraction from Open Seas

  • Open seas (air, surface, and seabed) are not under any country’s sovereignty (60% of the world’s seas).
  • Extraction is challenging and expensive despite potential mineral wealth.
  • Countries need an exploration license from ISBA before extraction.
  • No commercial extraction has occurred in open oceans yet.

Benefit for India

  1. Resource Potential: Nikitin Seamount offers valuable mineral resources, including polymetallic nodules rich in metals like nickel, cobalt, and manganese, which are crucial for India’s industrial growth.
  2. Strategic Access: Control over this seamount provides India strategic access to these resources, reducing dependency on imports.
  3. Economic Opportunities: Exploiting its resources can boost India’s economy through mining ventures.
  4. Technological Advancement: Exploration and extraction activities promote technological innovation, enhancing India’s capabilities in deep-sea mining.
  5. Environmental Conservation: Responsible exploitation can pave the way for sustainable development, aligning with India’s commitment to environmental conservation.

Concern for india

  1. Environmental Impact: Deep-sea mining at Nikitin Seamount may disrupt fragile marine ecosystems, affecting biodiversity and fisheries crucial for India’s coastal communities.
  2. Legal and Regulatory Challenges: India faces complexities in navigating international laws and regulations governing deep-sea mining in the region.
  3. Geopolitical Competition: Increased interest from other nations raises concerns about access and control over valuable resources.
  4. Economic Risks: Investments in deep-sea mining ventures entail financial uncertainties and potential resource depletion.
  5. Ethical Considerations: Balancing resource extraction with environmental conservation raises ethical dilemmas for India’s sustainable development goals.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

  • Established by UNCLOS to regulate exploration and exploitation of non-living marine resources in international waters.
  • Headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • 169 Members (including EU).
  • Manages exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in international seabed areas.

Rights over Continental Shelf

  • India claims its continental shelf extends up to 350 nautical miles (not yet awarded).
  • Countries can claim continental shelf based on scientific evidence of a natural land extension.
  • Approved claims grant primacy to explore and exploit resources in the region.
  • Continental shelf claims typically don’t extend beyond 350 nautical miles.

India’s Maritime Zone

  • Coastline: 7,517 km (including islands)
  • Territorial Waters (up to 12 nautical miles): Full sovereignty over coastal areas and ports.
  • Contiguous Zone (12 additional nautical miles): Allows actions against violations of specific laws.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone (up to 200 nautical miles): Exclusive rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage resources (fisheries, hydrocarbons).
  • High Seas (beyond EEZ): Open to any country seeking exploration permission from ISBA.


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