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India’s quest to explore a cobalt-rich underwater mountain in the Indian Ocean has encountered a hurdle. The Afanasy Nikitin Seamount, located east of the Maldives and central to the Indian Ocean, is believed to hold significant reserves of cobalt, a vital mineral for electric vehicles and batteries.

In January, India approached the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Jamaica, seeking approval to explore the region. Established in 1994, the ISA, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, regulates economic activities on the seabed beyond national jurisdictions.

However, the ISA’s evaluation revealed a complication. According to a note shared with Al Jazeera, the Afanasy Nikitin Seamount falls within an area claimed by another country as part of its continental shelf – the underwater extension of a nation’s landmass. While the ISA refrained from naming the contesting nation, experts believe Sri Lanka is the likely claimant.

This overlapping claim has put India’s application “on hold.” The ISA awaits India’s response before revisiting the issue. This development highlights the complexities surrounding deep-sea resource exploration, particularly when valuable minerals are involved.