Keppel subsidiary wins approval to explore Pacific seabed

SINGAPORE - A Keppel Corporation subsidiary, Ocean Mineral Singapore Pte Ltd, has won approval from the International Seabed Authority to explore a patch of Pacific seabed for key metals that can be used in areas like aerospace, alternative energy and construction.

The international authority made the decision at its annual meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, which takes place from July 15 to 26. The licence permits exploration for polymetallic nodules at a site within the 5-million sq-km Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, a swathe of Pacific sea floor south-west of Mexico, said Keppel in a press statement on Tuesday morning.

The nodules contain copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese, as well as rare earth minerals. They are formed bit by bit over millions of years when mineral-rich water from hot vents reacts with cold ocean water.

"While harvesting polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor at depths of several kilometres has previously been considered uneconomic, the development of new technologies for the offshore oil industry and aerospace industry over the past decade has changed this dynamic," Keppel had said in a press release in 2013 to announce the formation of Ocean Mineral Singapore, a Singapore-incorporated company majority owned by Keppel Corporation. Ocean's minority shareholders are Lockheed Martin subsidiary UK Seabed Resources Ltd and Singapore-based private investment company Lion City Capital Partners Pte. Ltd.

The firm intends to conduct environmental studies and to survey for deposits of polymetallic nodules within the approved area.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, director of Ocean Mineral Singapore, said, "We are pleased to have taken another step forward in this long term project. It leverages Keppel's experience in the offshore and marine sector, and we are excited by the opportunities that this venture presents."

Over the next few months, Ocean Mineral will work with the international authority to finalise the terms of contract for the award of the licence. In international waters, seabed mineral recovery is administered by the International Seabed Authority, which was established in 1994 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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