Benham Rise seen to yield massive mineral deposits
(The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - There is wealth out there, seemingly for the taking. But the diving is daunting, starting at 15 meters deep.

 In 2011, the Philippines acquired Benham Rise, described as a “massive” area east of Luzon.

The description comes from Carlos David, the new head of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD). “We have access to resources in an area bigger than Luzon, but we actually don’t know what we have.”

“There are lots of oceanography, lots of fisheries and biodiversity,” he said, citing data from the pioneering work conducted by scientists at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

“Is there gold, cobalt, copper, sunken treasure? We don’t know,” he said, adding indications are that valuable minerals are there.

“It’s potentially rich in precious and base metals like manganese, some gold and so on, spreading from the center of the rise,” he said. “There is a very large area in mineral deposits.”

Sampling and geochemical characterization should also look at manganese deposits as well as a little bit of copper in Aurora, Isabela and Cagayan, a natural extension of Benham.

Whether “to go deep sea mining, manage it and, at the very least, secure the area” will be determined if there are mineral deposits, David said. “Then it would be time to decide.”

There’s no problem in securing the area, said Cesar Villanoy of the UP Marine Science Institute, pointing out that anybody building a structure would need to construct 15 storys worth of foundation just to rise above sea level, “and the seas are heavy.”

In scientific research, a lot also needs to be done, he said.

Scientists need to study not only Benham but the contiguous areas around it, said David, who manages one of the largest funding agencies of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). “It’s under our jurisdiction in terms of exploiting and developing.”

It’s not just deep sea mining; research on deep sea mining potential goes together with studies on ecological risks. “We just want to know what’s there,” he said. “This way we are able to manage the resources in the area.”

There is substantive information available from the past, David said, noting that the first output of future research should be a data base “because this is ours, it should be free to all.”

Preliminary information is available on a website (Philippine Deep Sea Resources). Some of the data are proprietary, “but at least you know someone has the data,” David said.

And science is just starting. “This is only the east side of Luzon. We also have the west side although there are political issues. Most probably what you find in the right side of Luzon will also be found on the left,” said David, a geologist.

“Now is the time to acquire the west side as we have acquired the east side, complete with scientific studies,” he added.

The 1st Philippine Deep Sea Resources Conference will be held in Manila in February 2016. It will include the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan group of islands.

“Many nations are interested in how the Philippines will develop its deep sea resources,” David said. The conference will look at the issues.

Scientific collaboration will be initiated with international organizations. “We don’t have the capability to do it alone, we don’t have capacity to do the exploration,” he said.

The average depth is three kilometers, which can only be reached using submersibles; the shallowest part is about 15 meters, the equivalent of a three-story house.

A comprehensive policy for deep sea resources is in the works, David said. At the very least, all the agencies which need to be consulted, including environment and natural resources, agriculture and fisheries, have met several times.

The DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) is funding research on the “Exploration, Mapping, and Assessment of Deep Water Areas” of Benham Rise.

The research will generate benchmark data as basis for the national government to plan and manage the territory.

It is being conducted by the UP Marine Science Institute, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and UP Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management in partnership with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, Xavier University and Ateneo de Manila University. – SciencePhilippines

ACIRC AQUATIC AND NATURAL RESOURCES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT OF DEEP WATER AREAS BENHAM RISE DAVID DEEP LUZON MARINE SCIENCE INSTITUTE PHILIPPINE COUNCIL RESOURCES SEA
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