Society has a growing need for battery metals to enable a full transition to clean energy and electric transportation.
And that means we need to find new, more responsible sources for those metals. We believe that polymetallic nodules are the source with by far the least environmental and social impacts.
Polymetallic nodules, also called manganese nodules, sit on top of the seafloor and can be collected without drilling or having to move rocks or dirt. They are made of almost 100% usable minerals, compared to ores mined from the land which have increasingly low yields (often below 1%). This means that nodule collection has 99% less solid waste compared to land-based mining, and generates no toxic tailings.
Essential battery metals — cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese — are contained in polymetallic nodules that sit on the deep ocean floor.
We plan to lift them to the surface, take them to shore and process them with near-zero solid waste and no tailings; no deforestation, and with careful attention not to harm the integrity of the deep ocean ecosystem.
On a global scale, using ocean nodules to create 1 billion Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries will generate at least 75% less CO2 than using ores from land-based mines.
For society, sourcing base metals from these ocean nodules means no disruption to indigenous peoples or any community because the site is far offshore, in international waters, in the deep ocean, where no one lives. And unlike many existing cobalt mines, this also means zero child labor, and much safer jobs.
Polymetallic nodules are not a new discovery.
Manganese nodules were first found more than a century ago on the surface of the Pacific Ocean floor. In the 1970s four consortia started to collect these in trials, spending approximately $1 billion in today’s dollars. Tests confirmed that the nodules could be harvested and processed to produce usable metals using the technology available at that time. But the activity was paused, because there were no regulations or governing body in place to protect the deep ocean, especially in international waters. The International Seabed Authority was set up by the UN in 1994, and they granted the first license for exploring polymetallic nodules to DeepGreen in 2011.
How do we explore for polymetallic nodules in the deep sea?
Estimating the resource
DeepGreen holds rights to three exploration contracts granted by the ISA (NORI, Marawa and TOML). Through surveying with underwater drones and taking box core samples we are able to estimate the abundances of minerals in our exploration areas.
The NORI Contract Area alone is potentially big enough to supply battery metals for 140 million electric vehicles.
The details for NORI are in our 43-101 technical report: