Earlier this year, I interviewed the CEO of DeepGreen Metals, which has had a name change and is now known as The Metals Company. That was a result of the company combining with another company, Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corporation. I now have another update for you as well.
The Metals Company has just announced an exciting partnership. The company is partnering with Bjarke Ingels Group to design a new generation of offshore and onshore assets that will allow the company to produce critical EV battery metals from rocks scooped up from the seafloor. Although classified as a mining company, The Metals Company doesn’t technically mine the nodules, but instead uses tools to pick them up from the bottom of the ocean.
This new collaboration challenges Bjarke Ingels Group to reimagine conventional metal production for the 21st century — a time when society is focusing on a net-zero carbon future. To meet that challenge head on, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) designed a novel integrated ecosystem of both offshore and onshore assets to collect and process deep-sea nodules in a way that doesn’t minimally impact the environment.
BIG designed the company’s robotic collector to minimize disturbance as it gathers polymetallic nodules from the seafloor. The machine directs a jet of seawater across the tops of the nodules, then gently frees them from the sediment. Then they ride on compressed air bubbles to a production vessel at the surface.
The architectural firm also designed the production vessel as a 216-meter ship that runs on carbon-neutral electrofuels. The ship’s sunken deck will be covered with photovoltaic solar panels. Once the nodules are separated from seawater and sediment, which gets returned to below 1,200 meters, the nodules will be shipped to shore for processing in a shuttle carrier designed by BIG.
The shuttle carrier has a hyper-efficient, hydrodynamic design that will help reduce The Medals Company’s processing footprint even further.
Critical for it to reach its goals, The Metals Company needs processing facilities to offload nodules near deepwater ports. These are normally degraded brownfield sites. This challenge became an opportunity for BIG to design a circular, zero-solid-waste metallurgical plant that will do a couple of things.
One, it will contain both pyrometallurgical processing and hydrometallurgical refining steps in a single facility. It will also transform its urban port site into a battery materials innovation and community hub set with a regenerative coastal landscape.
The Metals Company has plants to build a “metal commons” along with a circular economy of metals to dramatically reduce and someday eliminate the need for new metals. The company estimates that after 3–4 decades, there should be enough cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese in the system to meet demand by recycling alone. It will then transition entirely to recycling and redeployment. Processing plants will then direct their entire focus onto recycling, thereby creating a resource that would be used, recovered, and reused continuously for millennia.
Photo provided by The Metals Company, used with permission.