The first chapter of our journey involves getting enough base metals into the system, with the least environmental and social impact. To do this, we plan to collect polymetallic nodules from roughly four miles deep, processing them with zero solid waste and supplying battery metals to EV manufacturers. On a global scale, using ocean nodules to supply metals for one billion electric vehicle batteries will generate at least 70% less CO2 equivalent emissions than producing these metals from land ores.
We are currently exploring for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Mexico. These are international waters and the nodules are deemed to be part of the ‘common heritage of humankind.’ The development of nodule resources is regulated by the International Seabed Authority, an international body established in 1994 pursuant to UNCLOS.
Polymetallic nodules are effectively a ‘battery in a rock’. Metals including nickel, cobalt, manganese and copper precipitate in the ocean and form the nodules over millions of years. Unlike many land ores, nodules do not contain toxic levels of heavy elements, can be processed with zero tailings and 100% of their mass can be turned into usable materials.
The nodules lie on the surface of the abyssal plain in the CCZ, the largest desert on the planet. DeepGreen has exploration rights — issued by the ISA — to two designated blocks in the CCZ, one sponsored by Nauru (NORI Area) and the other sponsored by Kiribati (Marawa Area). The NORI Area alone contains enough metal to potentially supply battery metals for 140 million electric vehicles.
At 3,800-5,500 meters deep it is perpetually dark, the pressure is intense, and there is a vast sedimentary seabed with gentle depressions, troughs and ridges. Ecologically it is a stable, food-poor environment with low biomass. Animals depend on particles that sink from oligotrophic surface waters.
Within a decade of DeepGreen’s first commercial production, we aim to move towards recycling battery metals, so that we can help facilitate the transition to the closed-loop world. We are proactively working towards this model by establishing partnerships with like-minded EV and battery manufacturers committed to a circular supply chain.
Once we begin supplying base metals to the electric vehicle industry, we will secure custody of our metals in the supply chain. This means that we will track our metals as they go into EV batteries, and we will recycle the metals at the end of the battery’s life as a service. Our base metals recycling business will grow over time, and eventually the metals derived from recycling will account for the lion share of what we do and what we are about as a company.