Deep Ocean Mission and Challenges

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : June 20th, 2021

Recently, the Prime Minister approved six major components of the Deep Ocean mission. The mission will be implemented in phases and cost around Rs 4,077 crore for a period of five years. The cost of the first phase (2021-24) is estimated at Rs 2,823.4 crore.



Ministry Of Earth Sciences has earlier proposed for ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ to boost India’s sea exploration capabilities. In Jun 2021, Prime Minister approved six major components of the Deep Ocean mission. The mission will be implemented in phases and cost around Rs 4,077 crore for a period of five years. The cost of the first phase (2021-24) is estimated at Rs 2,823.4 crore.

The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO about 35 years ago. India is focusing on the blue economy in terms of sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth. The Mission will help in leveraging the blue economy for the country’s overall economic growth.

Blue Economy

World Bank defined the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem."

In fact, Blue Economy is one of the ten core dimensions of growth under the government’s ‘Vision of New India by 2030’.  

Deep Ocean Mission

The objective of the Mission is to develop technologies for exploration and harnessing of living and non-living resources, survey and exploration of deep-sea and development of marine biotechnology are the broad objectives of this mission. 

Six major components of the Deep Ocean Mission

  1. Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible:  This component will help the priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep sea minerals and energy under Blue Ecosystem. Under this component,
    • Manned Submersible vehicle will be developed to carry three people to the depth of 6000 metre.
    • Integrated Mining system will also be developed to mine polymetalic nodules. One of the main aims of the mission is to explore and extract polymetallic nodules. These are small potato-like rounded accretions composed of minerals such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide. They lie scattered on the Indian Ocean floor at depths of about 6,000 m and the size can vary from a few millimetres to centimetres
  2. Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services: A set of observations and models will be built to better understand and forecast significant climate variables on seasonal to decadal time periods. It will support the priority area of coastal tourism under Blue Economy.
  3. Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity: The main focus of this component will be on bio-prospecting of deep sea flora and fauna, including microorganisms, as well as studies on the sustainable use of deep sea bio-resources. It will support the priority area of coastal tourism Marine Fisheries and allied services under Blue Economy
  4. Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration: This component  is to “explore and identify” potential sites of multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. It will support the priority area of deep sea exploration of ocean resources of Blue Economy.
  5. Energy and freshwater from the Ocean: Under this component, a detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are planned. It will support the off-shore energy development goal of Blue Economy.
  6. Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology: It is to build human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering, as well as to target research translation into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. This component will support the Blue Economy goal of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.

What is the Need of DOM?

  • India is blessed with 2.2 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone. And its deep-sea is “unexplored and unutilised” till date that contains polymetallic nodules or rare-earth metals.
  • It is estimated that a recovery of 10% of the ocean resources can meet India’s energy requirements for the next 100 years.
  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), allots the ‘area’ for deep-sea miningIndia was the first country to get the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor ‘ in 1987 and was accorded an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the ISA for the exploration of the nodules (rocks containing iron and manganese hydroxides around a core). In 2002, after complete resource analysis of the seabed, 50% was surrendered and the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km. Further studies and evaluations have helped narrow the mining area to 18,000 sq km which will be the ‘First Generation Mine-site’.
  • Apart from the CIOB, polymetallic nodules have been identified from the central Pacific Ocean. It is known as the Clarion-Clipperton ZoneISA has entered into 15-year contracts for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the deep seabed with 29 contractors and it was later extended for five more years till 2022. 
  • China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia and also some small islands such as the Cook Islands, Kiribati have joined the race for deep-sea mining. Many countries have tested their technologies in shallow waters and are yet to start deep-sea extraction.

Progress of the DOM

  • Remotely operable submersible (ROSUB 6000) that is capable of operating at depths of 6,000 metres has already been developed and tested successfully up to 5,289 metres depth.
  • Also, a remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment has also been developed for getting detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area at the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).
  • Setting up marine coastal observatories for monitoring marine pollution, early warning systems for ocean disasters and acquisition of coastal research vessels under the scheme Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART) etc.

Benefits of DOM

India is a developing country with a huge population. It means it has to serve the ever-growing demands of people and fastrack economic development. Deep-sea exploration may solve many of the problems facing today:

  • Extraction of rare earth metals can be used in electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and even for solar panels, which may help India to become a world Electronic Manufacturing Hub
  • Help in exploiting tidal energy and resources thereby harness the sustainable energy sources.
  • Ocean research can help predict earthquakes and tsunamis 
  • May find new sources for medical drugs, food, and other product
  • Besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the programme has also resulted in high impact research as well as manpower development. This will improve India’s position in the ocean research field


On one hand, more studies are being carried out to understand how the technology can be scaled up and used efficiently, on the other various environmental concerns are being raised.

  • DOM requires huge expenditure for R&D and technology transfers as it involves state-of-the-art technologies pressured submersibles to carry people or remote-controlled vehicles.
  • The deep sea’s biodiversity and ecology remain poorly understood, making it difficult to assess the environmental impact and frame adequate guidelines.
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said these deep remote locations can be home to unique species that have adapted themselves to conditions such as poor oxygen and sunlight, high pressure and extremely low temperatures. Deep-sea mining expeditions can make them go extinct even before they are known to science. 
    • Environmentalists are also worried about the sediment plumes that will be generated as the suspended particles can rise to the surface harming the filter feeders in the upper ocean layers. 
    • Additional concerns have been raised about the noise and light pollution from the mining vehicles and oil spills from the operating vessels.
    • Greenpeace says only 1% of international waters are properly protected from multiple industrial activities in the absence of a global ocean treaty.
    • DOM undermines progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 that aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns of energy and resources, and SDG 14 that aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
  • ISA says DOM will be commercially viable only if about three million tonnes are mined per year. It leads to greater exploitation of the resources that aggravate ecological concerns.
  • No clarity about the consequences of deep-sea mining and explorations in future.


There is a need to balance economic development and environmental ethics. These explorations will lead to a race for the exploitation of pristine waters harming the livelihood of fisheries and also the marine ecosystem. Hence the International Seabed Authority must ensure the upholding of Sustainable Development Goals by the contractors and countries in their bid to explore deep-sea resources. 

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Rajani Kumari Baodya
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Akarsh To

Akarsh ToJun 20, 2021

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RituJun 20, 2021

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Geeta Dixit

Geeta DixitJun 21, 2021

Send in Hindi plzz

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