Keppel unit bags seabed mining deal

A UNIT of rig builder Keppel Corporation is the first Singapore company to secure a contract to explore how metals can be harvested from the deep sea.

Ocean Mineral Singapore (OMS) yesterday signed a 15-year contract with the International Seabed Authority for the exploration of metal-rich rocks at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The authority was formed by the United Nations to regulate deep sea mining, and governs the Clarion-Clipperton fracture zone of the Pacific Ocean.

Work is being done on a regulatory framework, before firms can start mining there. For now, OMS will do environmental studies and surveys for deposits of polymetallic nodules in an approved 58,000 sq km area - about 80 times the size of Singapore.

These nodules are black potato-size rocks usually half-buried on the sea floor. They contain a variety of metals such as copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese. They can be used anywhere from construction to aerospace, and will help meet rising consumption as land-based mineral deposits get depleted.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, lauded Keppel for pioneering deep seabed mining as a "new front" in Singapore's maritime industry at yesterday's signing ceremony.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Keppel unit bags seabed mining deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe