Chile’s undersea exploration faces a lack of interest

In 2018, the University of Chile's Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC) undertook a mineralogical and geochemical study of the seabed between Chiloé Island and the Taitao Peninsula to identify its mineral resources and evaluate the potential of Chile's Exclusive Economic Zone.

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In 2018, the University of Chile’s Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC) undertook a mineralogical and geochemical study of the seabed between Chiloé Island and the Taitao Peninsula to identify its mineral resources and evaluate the potential of Chile’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The study required Mr. Marcelo García, the principal researcher, to tour part of the coast of the Los Lagos and Aysén regions on board the scientific ship AGS-61 «Cabo de Hornos», belonging to the Chilean Navy, in search of sediment samples with detrital gold, platinum and titanium, as well as traces of iron-manganese or hydrocarbon deposits.

The co-researchers in Santiago were Brian Townley, Katja Deckart and Daniel Moncada, and they analyzed the samples collected on the ship, with the final results likely to be released during the next two months.

Although the preliminary results did not find any gold, a fair amount of pyrite was detected that would have come from metamorphic rock erosion.

Information on the sea bed is practically non-existent in Chile, as the area involved is very large. The researchers participating in the project see little likelihood of conclusive results, but are confident that their outcomes will lead to basic exploration studies, which could justify exploitation in the future.

Sea bed exploitation in Chile will not only need basic information and geology, but will also need availability, interest and resources.

Lack of interest

In Chile, submarine exploration is not a priority when there is so much wealth on land, but the authorities have also said that potential exploitation in international waters could generate an oversupply of copper and downward pressure on the price of the mineral.

Chile has been a member of the International Seabed Authority since 1997, which encourages the exploitation of minerals in international waters mainly belonging to developed countries, which also have the technology required to exploit at depth, but Chile is not on the list.

Seabed mining has already begun on South Pacific coasts. Nautilus Minerals has succeeded in defining and exploring its first prospect in Papua New Guinea: Solwara 1, located at a depth of 1,600 meters, whose useful life has been forecast as three years.

The area hosts polymetallic nodules of nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese with 7.2% Cu, 6.4g/t Au, 34g/t Ag and 0.9% Zn, which could produce between 70,000 and 80,000 tons of copper per year and about 120,000 ounces of gold, according to company estimates.

The International Seabed Authority has already approved 27 exploration contracts that will allow about one million square kilometers to be explored at the bottom of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, over the next 15 years.

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