A battery in a rock.
Polymetallic nodules are the cleanest path toward electric vehicles.
A Nodule Solution
Society has an urgent, growing need for battery metals to enable a full transition to clean energy and electric vehicles. We believe that polymetallic nodules are the cleanest source of these metals, with by far the lightest planetary touch.
Polymetallic nodules, also called manganese nodules, contain four essential battery metals: cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese, in a single ore. Formed over millions of years by absorbing metals from seawater, these nodules lie unattached to the abyssal seafloor and are almost entirely composed of usable materials. Unlike land ores, they don’t contain toxic levels of heavy elements, and producing metals from nodules generates 99% less solid waste, with no toxic tailings.
Polymetallic nodules were discovered more than a century ago. In the 1970s, four consortia started to collect the rocks in trials. Tests confirmed that the nodules could be collected and processed to produce usable metals with the technology available at the 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 (ISA) was set up by the U.N. in 1994, and the organization granted the first license for exploring polymetallic nodules to Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) in 2011.The Metals Company now holds rights to exploration contracts granted by the International Seabed Authority via three subsidiaries: Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI), sponsored by Nauru; Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. (TOML), sponsored by the Kingdom of Tonga; and Marawa, sponsored by the Republic of Kiribati.
Through surveying with underwater drones and taking box core samples, we’re able to estimate the abundances of minerals in our exploration areas. The NORI area alone contains enough metal to potentially supply battery metals for 140 million electric vehicles. Our studies estimate that the number of polymetallic nodules within our three exploration areas is enough to electrify a quarter of the world’s passenger vehicle fleet (approx. 280 million EVs).
Using nodules to create EV batteries will generate at least 75% less CO2 than ores from land-based mines. It also means no disruption to Indigenous communities and far safer working conditions than in land-mining operations.
The Metals Company plans to lift polymetallic nodules to the surface, take them to shore, and process them with near-zero solid waste, no tailings or deforestation, and with careful attention not to harm the integrity of the deep-ocean ecosystem.
Our recovery process begins with our collector, designed to minimize disturbance while gathering polymetallic nodules from the abyssal seafloor. Nodules travel up a purpose-built riser system to our production vessel, where aboard, they’re separated from the water and sediment, which we return below the photic zone, to a depth scientifically chosen to have minimal impact. Throughout this process, our adaptive management system, a mix of marine hardware and cloud-based A.I., creates a virtual replica of the deep-sea environment, giving eyes and ears to the regulator and various stakeholders during operation and allowing us to have the lightest impact on the marine ecosystem, from surface to seafloor. The nodules then head to shore via our shuttle carrier, where they’re offloaded for processing.