South Korean researchers say studies on seabed minerals in Tongan waters could reap economic benefits for both South Korea and Tonga.
A ship provided by the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute is investigating the extent of mineral deposits such as gold, silver and copper within Tonga's exclusive economic zone.
A spokesman for the company, Jang Wan Bang, says a team of 27 researchers will spend the next four months collecting data from ocean floors on the western side of Tongatapu.
He says researchers are confident the mineral resources can lead to much gain.
"It's too early to say, but we are open to invest those projects. So in that case the benefits will be shared equally when the team asks the Tongan government. But basically at this moment, we agreed to pay royalties to the Tongan government."
Jang Wan Bang says three previous studies on the mineral deposits in Tongan waters have shown promising results.