China tests deep-sea mining vehicle

The Pioneer II prototype went down to a depth of more than 4,000 m in testing, successfully collecting more than 200 kg of deep-sea minerals.

China’s heavy-duty deep-sea mining vehicle has completed testing at a depth of more than 4,000 meters, a major breakthrough in the country’s deep-sea mineral resources technology. The Shanghai municipal government said on July 9 that the prototype vehicle participating in the test, named Pioneer II, was independently developed by Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Pioneer II has completed five deep-sea mining and diving missions, including a record-breaking dive to a depth of 4,102.8 meters, marking the first time a Chinese heavy-duty deep-sea mining vehicle has conducted a test operation at a depth exceeding 4,000 meters. The prototype vehicle pioneered a number of innovations, including the ability to move flexibly under complex seabed terrain and drill and mine a variety of deep-sea minerals.

In addition, Pioneer II is also equipped with an environmental monitoring system, which helps to comprehensively monitor and evaluate the impact of factors such as the material column stirred up during deep-sea mining or noise during underwater operations.

Deep-sea mineral samples collected by the Pioneer II heavy-duty mining vehicle. Photo: Shanghai Jiaotong University/Xinhua

During sea trials, Pioneer II completed one dive per day for five consecutive days from June 22 to 26 in the western Pacific Ocean, collecting more than 200 kilograms of deep-sea minerals, according to Yang Jianmin, a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University and the project’s chief scientist. He also noted that deep-sea mineral resources are typically found at depths of 2,000 to 6,000 meters.

The success of the new test is a solid step forward for China’s deep-sea exploration, according to Lin Zhongqin and Li Jiabiao, academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Li Maolin, director of a national laboratory for deep-sea mineral resources. According to experts, Pioneer II will help promote deep-sea scientific research, resource exploration and environmental protection.

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