The Sudan and Saudi Arabia are working together to start underwater mining in the Red Sea as soon as 2014.
The countries granted Canadian firm Diamond Fields International and its joint venture partner Manafa International Trade Company of Saudi Arabia the go ahead for the Atlantis II Deeps; unveiling plans to mine what DFI calls "one of the largest hydrothermal polymetallic deposits in the world".
Saudi minister for petroleum and mineral resources, Ali al-Naimi explained that "it [has] already started and it's underway".
"We are expecting starting production maybe 2014," Sudan's mining minister Kamal Abdel Latif added, according to Lebanon Today.
The Atlantis II Deeps has a surface area of 60 square kilometers and is believed to contain around 1.83 million tonnes of zinc at grades of 20.1% , 402 000 tonnes of copper at grades of 3.6%, and 3432 tonnes of silver.
It comes as Nautillus Minerals' announced its plans to terminate the construction of equipment for its seafloor production system in the development of the Solwara 1 Project off the Papa New Guinean coast, just months after the government gave the go ahead for the project.
Seabed mining has recently caused controversy in Australia and New Zealand.
In the Northern Territory the recently elected government announced it is considering lifting a moratorium on seabed mining as early as 2015, after the ban was put in place following a spike in seabed exploration applications.
Plans for underwater iron sand mining off New Zealand's North Island have also drawn criticism.
Companies including Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) have plans to mine the seabed off the coast of NZ’s North Island.
TTR has cited surveys estimating that possibly 481 million tonnes of iron ore exist up to nine metres beneath the seabed.
The two Red Sea focused companies were initially granted a licence to explore the area in 2010.
Diamond Fields also has applications for offshore mineral deposits in southern Africa, and is considering further development of its Namibian offshore projects.