The final frontier: who owns the oceans and their hidden treasures?

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ransom-hungry pirates, polar explorers, offshore oil giants - the race for the riches of the world’s final frontier is on. From Thailand to Alaska, the battle to tap ever-dwindling resources from minerals to fish is spurring new conflicts over who has the right to the treasures of the deep seas.

As India, China and Brazil seek new sources of cobalt, copper and nickel to build the gadgets demanded by their booming populations, they are preparing to mine a new realm - the dark depths of the ocean.

Over the next decade India will spend more than $1 billion to develop and test deep-sea technologies - including human-piloted exploration submarines - in the Indian Ocean that could give access to once inaccessible mineral riches up to 6.8 miles (11 km) under water.

“We have to depend on ocean resources sooner or later ... there is no other way,” said Gidugu Ananda Ramadass, head of India’s deep-sea mining project at the National Institute of Ocean Technology in the southern city of Chennai.

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