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China Plans Long-term Underwater Lab

FILE - Astronauts practice on a Hubble model underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston under the watchful eyes of NASA engineers and safety divers. China aims to build a deep-sea lab that provides long-time living and working space for scientists.

China is planning to build a deep sea lab to look for minerals under the sea bed.

According to a proposal presented by the Chinese Science Ministry, the lab will be placed about 3,000 meters deep and provide long-time living and working space for scientists looking for sources of oil, natural gas and valuable minerals.

The idea was included in the current five-year economic plan but Bloomberg news reports that after a recent review, authorities moved it to second place on the government's list of 100 science and technology priorities.

China has not disclosed the possible location of the lab, but the Communist-led country has been asserting its power in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Although such a lab can also have military objectives, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Xu Liping, said that its purpose will be mainly civilian.

In spite of the recent slowdown, China's economy is still looking for new sources of raw materials and the deep sea remains one of the world's least explored areas.