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Despite warnings about the ecological impacts of deep-sea mining, India is to extract millions of tonnes of manganese nodules from the floor of the Indian Ocean.

The Indian government, which has spent about US$40 million surveying the site, estimates that reserves of the nodules — which are rich in manganese, copper, nickel, cobalt and iron — could be worth as much as US$200 billion.

But researchers at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, who undertook a survey to assess the environmental impact of mining operations, warn that discharges of unwanted sediment during mining will upset the area's ecological balance.

Reference: Nature 417, 212 (2002)

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