Gold rush under the ocean for Irish mid-Atlantic team
Published 05/08/2011 | 05:00
IRISH scientists have struck gold in a deep-sea discovery that could yield a multi-million-euro mining boost.
The Irish-led team made the discovery 3km down on the Atlantic ocean floor by identifying a field of volcanic vents spewing up rare metals from the earth's core.
Backed by the National Geographic Society, they discovered the new volcanic vent field in the mid-Atlantic between the Azores and Iceland.
While it is in international waters, Ireland's role in identifying and mapping the area will yield a key share in the available rare metal resources, including copper, gold, zinc and sulphides.
However, the capability of exploiting the rare metals will be some years away as technology is still being developed to cope with the enormous pressures at such sea depths.
The vent was found after the team decided to investigate an unknown heat source found on sensors a short distance from the Atlantic Ridge.
The team -- with members from University College Cork, Marine Institute, NUI Galway, the National Oceanography Centre and the NGS -- is now expected to collaborate with international agencies about how to follow up the discovery.
The team's vessel, RV Celtic Explorer, berthed in Cork yesterday.
Exploration leader Dr Andy Wheeler of UCC said the discoveries had put Ireland firmly at the forefront of world-class deep sea research.
"We managed to find the edge of the (volcanic) vent field within two hours of arriving on the sea floor," Dr Wheeler told the Irish Independent.
The team's landmark discovery will now be the focus of a special National Geographic TV special called 'Alien Deep', to be broadcast next year.