The Metals Company (TMC) is focused on sourcing the critical metals and minerals needed for producing batteries for electric vehicles but in a unique way. TMC CEO Gerard Barron explained to me in an interview in August 2021 that the oceans are filled with three different types of metal. One type, in particular, is what TMC collects. These nodules are just laying on the seafloor “like golf balls on a driving range and can be collected directly.” They are the focus of TMC.
TMC announced recently that it has completed its latest offshore research campaign, Environmental Expedition 5E, which is a targeted sampling campaign of benthic and pelagic fauna. The campaign included wider investigations to characterize ecosystem function on the abyssal seafloor.
The expedition took six weeks to complete and is TMC’s fifth environmental campaign during the past year. It marks the latest offshore campaign required to develop an environmental baseline of TMC’s proposed operating environment in a section of the Pacific Ocean called the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ). The campaign also helped TMC see how its proposed nodule collection operations would or could impact the immediate environment.
These deep-sea polymetallic nodules TMC is collecting are filled with critical minerals and metals used in EV battery production. TMC also announced that this year, it will conduct an initial Prototype Collector Vehicle maneuverability test in the Atlantic Ocean and follow that up with pilot collection system trials in the CCZ later.
TMC added that researchers from top leading marine science institutions such as the UK National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Marine Technology (JAMSTEC), Natural History Museum (London), Heriot-Watt University, and the University of Gothenburg were all involved in the research campaign.
The research was conducted aboard the Maersk Launcher, where they deployed several cutting-edge technologies, including a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) as well as an array of seafloor landers.
Researchers from the UK National Oceanography Centre conducted visual observations of over 30-square kilometers of seafloor. They captured over 35,000 high-resolution and video data over the course of more than 390 ROV operational hours. The data collected will be key in identifying megafauna at depths of 4,000 meters.
Unlike other campaigns that used randomized boxcore sampling to obtain macrofaunal samples, the Expedition 5E research team was able to conduct highly targeted sampling of benthic macro and megafauna while also focusing on species of particular scientific interest.
While exploring the gelatinous communities in the midwater column, the pelagic team, which was led by JAMSTEC, used traditional sampling methods such as nets with ROV-mounted video to conduct 130 video transects at various depths. They also used specialized D-samples and the ROV’s suction sampler to collect specimens.
Another team led by Heriot-Watt University collected data to assess ecosystem function on the seafloor by using an array of seafloor landers. Seabed respirometers, baited traps, and cameras were all used. The team collected around 1,200 specimen and tissue samples throughout the campaign, which contributed to a variety of baseline studies such as DNA and morphological taxonomy, population genetics, ecotoxicology, and ecosystem function.
Gerard Barron, TMC’s CEO and Chairman, gave the following statement:
“With five research campaigns under our belts in the last twelve months, the all-star research teams we’ve brought together are helping build a high-resolution picture of the potential impacts of collecting nodules. This data will enable our engineering and project teams to optimize our activities for low impact and ensure that we lift the nodules to the surface with the lightest possible touch.”
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Mining.com Ranked TMC’s NORI-D Nodule Project As The #1 Nickel Project In The World
The NORI-D nodule project was recently ranked as the number one nickel project in the world by Mining.com. It should be noted that TMC started out as Deep Green Metals and was recently renamed in 2021, and the Mining.com award still lists the owner as Deep Green Metals. The NORI-D nodule project was the first in TMC’s project development pipeline.
In January, TMC published an upward revision to the nodule resource reported in the NORI-D area held by Nauru Ocean Resources Inc., its subsidiary. The revised version improved resource confidence from inferred to indicated status. TMC noted that resource tonnage increased by 7% over the reported area from 320Mt inferred to 341Mt indicated.
You can read more here.