South Korea has reportedly secured exclusive seabed mineral exploration rights in waters off Tonga.
The Korea Times reports that South Korea has been granted an exploratory licence for 20,000 square kilometres believed to have more than nine million tons of deposits of copper, zinc and gold.
According to the paper, this is enough to supply 300,000 tons of minerals annually over the next 30 years, which will save South Korea about 100 million US dollars in imports.
It says commercial production is planned from 2010.
The Korea Resources Corporation says the government has been urgently expanding overseas resource developments as South Korea currently imports more than 90 percent of its mineral needs.
The newspaper doesn't say what the deal is worth to Tonga.