I just read this interesting blurb from Stratfor…

…Today, for mining companies seeking to expand capacity, the ocean floor is emerging as a focus of attention. Particularly in the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans, the ocean floor contains a number of boulders rich in minerals like gold, nickel and copper — a tempting prospect for those who think they can develop the technology to bring those rocks to the surface.

The fact of the matter is that routine, cost-effective and profitable mining of the ocean floor remains years away, though corporations have made rapid progress toward this goal during the past decade. By 2009, some mining companies expect to be operating on the floor in both the Pacific and Indian oceans. However, venturing into this sphere will mean launching operations in the murky waters of unproven public policies. For instance, there currently is a global system for awarding exploration blocks to companies, but few rules exist to govern how the mining is done.

The essay goes on to discuss the policy ramifications of mining on the ocean floor, including some interesting points about piracy, impacts to fish, etc.

The policy implications aside, I find that mining at the bottom of the sea to be something new and novel… and potentially a industry changing paradigm.? The paradigm will likely be a long time coming though, Stratfor estimates that it will take 20 years for the technology to be economically feasible at today’s precious metal prices.