What might Red Sea mining bring to Saudi Arabia and Sudan?
A Canadian company expects to complete a study, within a year, to gauge the feasibility of extracting metals from hydro-thermal basins some 2,000 metres deep in the Red Sea, which could boost Saudi Arabia and Sudan's access to metals, and create high-paying jobs.
The Vancouver-based Diamond Fields International Ltd. (DFI) says the study will show whether metals can be extracted safely and profitably.
A paper published in March 2011 by the Kiel Institute for World Economy estimated the total value of known seabed minerals in the Red Sea basins to be up to US$8.21 billion, and stated that extraction had been shown to be feasible.
The paper was based on sediment samples taken from the Red Sea's Atlantis II Deep basin in 1970, when the Sudanese government hoped to start Red Sea mining in collaboration with Preussag AG, a German mining company. However, when global ore prices dropped in the early 1980s, Preussag abandoned its mining plans and later donated the Atlantis II sediment cores to the Kiel Institute.
Recent hikes in ore prices and high demand from emerging economies — including China and India — have renewed interest in exploiting deep-sea metal deposits. In 2010, DFI and the Manafa International Trade Company of Saudi Arabia, obtained a licence from the joint Saudi—Sudanese Red Sea Commission to mine the basin.
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Image credit: NASA