Miners are eyeing the world’s deepest undersea volcanic vents, which were recently discovered in the Caribbean.

The vents, known as black smokers, are located 5,000m down in the Cayman Trough, according to BBC News, and contain a rich mix of minerals.

Gold, silver, copper and zinc are all present in the emissions of the vent systems and recent advances in deep-sea oil exploration will give miners the chance to exploit these areas for the first time.

Nautilus Minerals, the company associated with Anglo-American, recently received an environmental permit to conduct the world’s first deep-sea mining in the vent fields of the Bismarck Sea.

Giant undersea excavators will be used to extract ore from depths of 1,600m by 2012.

Debates is still raging, however, into whether deep sea mining will be less damaging to the environment than that carried out on land.