DeepGreen and Allseas Team Up on Seafloor Mining

Published Jun 10, 2019 8:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada's DeepGreen Metals has agreed to form a partnership with Allseas Group for exploring for high-grade metals obtained from seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits.

DeepGreen recently engaged Macquarie Capital and Fearnley Securities to co-lead a $150 million investment round in order to finance the company through feasibility studies, targeted for completion in 2023. The company aims to have mining operations underway by 2025 and aims to supply the metals for renewable technologies, particularly the batteries required to power electric vehicles. 

Allseas comes in as a lead strategic investor, which will ultimately enable DeepGreen to develop a polymetallic nodule harvester and riser system to gather nodules from the seafloor of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific, and transport them up to a surface vessel some four to 6.5 kilometers above.

Last year, DeepGreen Metals, through its subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) announced a resource estimate of 909 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules grading 1.3 percent Nickel, 29.2 percent Manganese, 1.1 percent Copper and 0.2 percent Cobalt with a mean nodule abundance of 13 kg/m2 based on a nodule abundance cut-off of 4kg/m2 at NORI’s project at the CCZ site. The site, comprising an area of 74,830 square kilometers, is located between approximately 115o and 135o West and approximately 10o and 15o North and comprises four areas. 

The polymetallic nodules are typically 1-20cm in diameter and lay within mud on the seafloor (within 30cm of the surface) and are composed principally of metal hydroxides. The nodules occur as concentric layers of primarily manganese and iron oxides and hydroxides concentrated around a core.

"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," said DeepGreen's Chairman and CEO, Gerard Barron. "Extracting battery metals like nickel and cobalt from terrestrial mines is facing many challenges, and the environmental, CO2 and social costs are simply too high. Seafloor polymetallic nodules contain more than enough base metals that the world needs to get to a clean energy economy, and they require no blasting, drilling or digging. Indeed, our life cycle sustainability analysis shows that, with regards to [lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide] NMC batteries with copper connectors for electric vehicles, ocean nodules generate at least 75 percent less CO2 when compared to producing these metals from land ores."

Operations will occur in international waters and are to be governed by the first-of-its-kind regulatory framework currently being developed through the U.N. International Seabed Authority. 

Last month, a new study demonstrated that the impacts of seabed mining on deep-sea ecosystems can persist for decades. The study stated that the nodules provide a stable anchoring point for the development of anemones, soft corals and sponges, and promote the development of diverse communities on otherwise muddy seabed. The nodules take millions of years to form, and their removal or burial will remove the home of many of these filter-feeding animals, constraining their capacity to recolonize impacted zones and further delaying ecosystem recovery processes.