If you've got a submarine, chances are you're gonna come across a few Chinese flags. Beijing is set to launch a manned submersible on an ultra-deep dive in search of valuable minerals, unseating the US as the leader in the high-stakes world of deep sea exploration. The Jiaolong is expected to dive to 5,000 meters between Hawaii and North America sometime within the next two weeks, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese officials say the exploration is for civilian purposes only, but controlling areas of the ocean floor means access to vast mineral deposits of gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead, which experts say is necessary to keep the country's economy growing. The US led undersea mining from the '60s until the '90s, when the practice became uneconomical and defense cuts ended the program. But with the rising price of commodities, many believe this is just the beginning of China's underwater reign. "This definitely was no 'rush to headlines,' but rather a carefully evolved program," says a US undersea-engineering consultant. "I believe we will see more manned and unmanned submersibles from this team."