The Metals Company Completes High Seas Research Campaign

The Metals Company (TMC) is focused on supplying essential metals and minerals necessary for the production of 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 metals. One type, in particular, is what TMC collects. These nodules simply sit on the seabed “like golf balls on a driving range and can be collected directly”. They are at the center of TMC.

Image courtesy of The Metals Company / Business Wire.

TMC recently announced that it has completed its latest research campaign at sea, the 5E Environmental Expedition, which is a targeted sampling campaign of benthic and pelagic fauna. The campaign included larger surveys to characterize the function of the ecosystem on the abyssal seabed.

The expedition lasted six weeks and is TMC’s fifth environmental campaign in the past year. This is the last offshore campaign required to develop an environmental baseline of the operating environment proposed by TMC in a section of the Pacific Ocean known as the Clarion Clipperton (CCZ) area. The campaign also helped TMC see how its nodule collection operations would or could impact the immediate environment.

These deep-water polymetallic nodules that TMC collects are filled with critical minerals and metals used in the production of electric vehicle batteries. TMC also announced that this year it will conduct a first handling test of the collector’s prototype vehicle in the Atlantic Ocean and that it will subsequently conduct pilot tests of the collection system in the CCZ.

Image courtesy of The Metals Company / Business Wire.

TMC added that researchers from leading marine science institutions such as the UK’s National Center for Oceanography (NOC), Japan Agency for Marine and Terrestrial Sciences and Marine Technologies (JAMSTEC), Natural History Museum (London), Heriot-Watt University and Gothenburg University 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 a range of seabed landers.

Researchers at the UK’s National Center for Oceanography made visual observations of more than 30 square kilometers of seabed. They captured more than 35,000 video and high resolution data during more than 390 hours of operation of the ROV. The data collected will be essential to identify megafauna at depths of 4000 meters.

Unlike other campaigns that used randomized boxcore sampling to obtain macrofauna samples, the Expedition 5E research team was able to conduct highly targeted benthic macro and megafauna sampling while focusing on species of particular scientific interest.

While exploring gelatinous communities in the intermediate water column, the pelagic team, led by JAMSTEC, used traditional sampling methods such as nets with video mounted on ROV to perform 130 video transects at varying depths. They also used specialized D-samples and the ROV’s vacuum sampler to collect samples.

Another team led by Heriot-Watt University collected data to assess ecosystem function on the seabed using a set of landers on the seabed. 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 various baseline studies such as DNA and morphological taxonomy, population genetics, ecotoxicology and ecosystem function.

Gerard Barron, CEO and Chairman of TMC, made the following statement:

“With five research campaigns under our belt in the past twelve months, the leading research teams we have assembled are helping to create a high-resolution picture of the potential impacts of nodule collection. This data will allow our engineering and project teams to optimize our operations for low impact and ensure that we lift nodules to the surface with the lightest touch possible. ranked TMC’s NORI-D nodule project as the # 1 nickel project in the world

The NORI-D nodule project was recently ranked the world’s first nickel project by It should be noted that TMC started as Deep Green Metals and was recently renamed in 2021, and the price always lists owner as Deep Green Metals. The NORI-D nodule project was the first in TMC’s project development pipeline.

In January, TMC released an upward revision of the reported nodule resource in the NORI-D area held by Nauru Ocean Resources Inc., its subsidiary. The revised version improved the confidence of resources from inferred state to indicated state. TMC noted that the resource tonnage increased by 7% over the declared area, from 320 Mt inferred to 341 Mt indicated.

You can read more here.

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