China Minmetals flags off deep-sea mining voyage

China Minmetals Corp has flagged off its maiden deep-sea venture seeking minerals in the east Pacific Ocean, a company spokesman confirmed.

The 'Xiang Yang Hong 06' survey vessel, with a crew of 26, on Tuesday left Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, where it will search for polymetallic nodules, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The voyage will last more than 90 days, according to the Beijing-based company, which has land resources spanning China, Australia and South America.

A Chinese submersible had discovered polymetallic nodules in the South China Sea in May, Xinhua reported earlier.

Minmetals signed a 15-year exploration contract with Jamaica-based International Seabed Authority in May for a 72,745 square km area of the zone, which stretches from the coast of central America to the centre of the Pacific Ocean.

Polymetallic nodules are rock concretions formed of concentric layers of iron and manganese hydroxides around a core that may be invisible to the naked eye, the International Seabed Authority said on its website.

They can occur at any depth, but the highest concentrations have been found between 4,000 and 6,000, the website added.

China has been sponsoring another contractor for exploring polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone since 2001, the association said in May, without identifying the contractor.

(Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)