A South Korean research vessel is to carry out scientific studies on seabed minerals in Tongan waters over the next several months.
A ship, provided by the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute, or KORDI, arrived last week to begin investigations of the extent of deposits such as copper, silver and gold on the ocean floor within Tonga's exclusive economic zone.
Tonga's acting prime minister, Samiu Kuita Vaipulu, says the valuable technical information and data collected by the vessel is the essential first step towards discovery of minerals.
The KORDI chief, Jang Wan Bang, says a team of 27 researchers from Korea will spend the next four months collecting data from ocean beds within Tonga's jurisdiction, up to several thousand metres below the surface.
The South Korean ambassador to Tonga, Kwan-il Noh, says he hopes the project can contribute to the economic development and prosperity of both countries.