Hot on the heels of the news that the marine mining sector (mining on or under the seafloor) has been estimated to be worth $7.05bn by 2026 , comes the news that one of the up-and-coming stars in the field, DeepGreen Metals, has secured the majority of a $150m funding round, part of which comes from the Swiss offshore engineering firm Allseas. The investment will be used to fund feasibility studies to evaluate mining polymetallic nodules from the deep ocean floor.
DeepGreen’s plan is to hoover up these small nodules which are found on the seafloor, targeting a 75,000 km square area of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a fracture zone, close to Nauru in the Pacific.
Gerard Barron, the CEO of Deep Green, commented ““Our partnership with Allseas will ultimately help us open up a new, disruptive source of battery metals for the green revolution and transform the mining industry as we know it,”
We attended a fascinating talk from Gerard at Mines and Money London last year, giving us an overview of this potentially revolutionary new frontier for mining.
The technical issues with seafloor mining sometimes sound enough to make anyone walk away, but with DeepGreen’s resource estimates it’s easy to see why they feel compelled to rise to the challenge. The area covered by their licence is estimated to hold 34 billion tons of nodules, containing 270 millions tons of nickel and 6 billion tons of manganese.
Demand only going one way
When we see the ever-increasing forecasts for electric vehicle sales , and factor in the infrastructure needed to support that massive change globally, it’s clear we’re going to need to be a bit more creative in the future when it comes to looking for resources, economically, geologically, and possibly astronomically!
Why bother with seafloor mining?
Those of us involved in mining for a while may recall seafloor or subsea mining has been seen as a potential abundant source of valuable metals since the 1970s. The reason being that on more than 70% of the seafloor metal rich nodules are found, seemingly just waiting for someone to come along with the right technology to scoop them up without any of that mining business.
DeepGreen stress the economic advantage of seafloor mining compared to more traditional sources. They claim its less carbon intensive, causes less destruction to the environment (no deforestation or tailings ponds for example), and doesn’t use child labour.
The situation is far from cut and dried though. Only last year the European Parliament called for a ban on seafloor mining, and the whole sector is under increased scrutiny due to potential environmental damage.
In order to ensure compliance DeepGreen has partnered with the United Nations International Seabed Authority who are in charge of managing mineral resources, regulating exploration and exploitation phases of deep seabed mining to ensure ethical resource management with minimal impact on our oceans.
But the fact remains, the demand for metals to supply the clean energy revolution is only going to go up, and whilst we can magic electricity out of thin air, the copper, manganese and nickel we need to capture and transfer that energy is another matter.
Where do these nodules come from?
The exact constitution of the nodules varies but those with the greatest economic interest are typically 27-30% manganese, 1.25-1.5% nickel, 1.4% copper, 0.2% cobalt, with other constituents being iron 6%, silicon 5%, aluminium 3% and also calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, titanium and barium.
The nodules are believed to form at an incredibly slow rate, current estimates are something in the order of a centimetre of growth every million years, so don’t wait on any ,mined resources suddenly regenerating with the next tide, the total amount globally has been estimated at 500 billion tons.
DeepGreen is a Canadian company offering a new and disruptive approach to supplying the world with metals needed for economic growth and clean technologies. With its patented processing technology, DeepGreen is on track to become a leading producer of base and strategic metals obtained from vast high-grade seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits containing nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt. The Company’s leading achievements have already drawn attention from miner and metal trader Glencore, which has contracted to buy a percentage of the nickel and copper produced from a DeepGreen processing plant. Glencore has also made an investment in DeepGreen.
Find out more about DeepGreen at https://deep.green