Lockheed to use Soviet submarine hunt data in seabed mining plan

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's biggest defense contractor, is preparing to scour the Pacific Ocean seabed in a search for metals using data obtained in a cold-war hunt for a sunken Soviet submarine. Lockheed has set up a unit, U.K. Seabed Resources, to explore for so-called polymetallic nodules that can contain copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earths. The company, supported by the U.K. government, has been granted the first commercial exploration rights for a 22,000-square-mile area of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico.

Rare earths are 17 elements used in magnets, oil refining and smartphone batteries. They became a political and legislative flashpoint in July 2010 when China moved to limit domestic output and slash export quotas by 40 percent, souring ties with the U.S. and Japan.

Exploration will start late in the U.K. summer this year and the company expects to be ready to seek an exploitation license in about three years and to start extraction in five to six, Moore said.

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