Photo: China Daily

Chinese state media have announced that they will be constructing a deep-sea research base alongside the Jiaolong sub in a bid to uncover energy sources and rare-earth metals. The research center will be located in China’s coastal city of Qingdao, in Shandong province and is said to have an estimated 495 million yuan (72.8 million dollars) construction budget.

The accompanying Jiaolong sub (pictured above) is a modern marvel of engineering capacity after reaching a depth of 3,759 meters (this marked China as the fifth country in the world to create deep-diving technology that supersedes the 3,500-meter mark). The sub is only 8.2 meters in length but weighs in at 22 tonnes. In fact, the machine itself is said to have the potential to be the deepest reaching vessel on Earth. It is designed to go 500 meters deeper than Japan’s Shinkai (which can theoretically go down to 6,500 meters).

Photo: Xinhua

China’s submersible development is aimed at scientific research to help with the peaceful exploration and utilization of natural resources, officials said.

Jiaolong’s main missions include physical, chemical and biological research, as well as exploration and deep-sea salvage, officials said.

Since 2002, China have had a boosted appetite for new energy largely due to their explosive economic growth (a recent International Energy Agency report stated that China had, in fact, surpassed the US’s energy consumption levels). Scientists in the country strongly believe that at sea depths of 4,500-6,000 meters the beds are rich in methane hydrate (which is essentially natural gas in solid form encased in ice) and rare metals.

If the research is said to be successful, do you think this could spark a new breed of world race of deep-sea energy mining?

[Sources: PhysOrg | China Daily]