DeepGreen partners with scientists on seafloor discovery program

DeepGreen plans to extract cobalt and other battery metals from the seabed. (Image courtesy of DeepGreen.)

DeepGreen Metals announced Tuesday it has formed partnerships with scientific research institutions and universities on its deep-sea discovery program to characterize the potential impacts of lifting polymetallic nodules from the bottom of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean.

In April, the Canadian start-up planning to extract cobalt and other battery metals from the seafloor, added a new area to its seabed portfolio, when it acquired Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML), giving the company exploration rights to a 74,713 km2 block of CCZ seabed that contains an inferred resource of 756 million wet tonnes of polymetallic nodules.

The research program will involve over 100 researchers to study the entire water column — from seabed to surface — involving ROVs, nets, sail drones and sophisticated sensors and moorings.

Experts from UK National Oceanography Centre, Natural History Museum (London), University of Gothenburg, University of Leeds, Heriot-Watt University — the Lyell Centre, Florida State University, University of Hawaii, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, and Texas A&M will join the program, while maintaining their academic independence, DeepGreen said.

The battery metals start-up is investing over $60 million to accelerate a collaborative program to address outstanding questions on the potential environmental impacts of collecting polymetallic nodules from the deep seabed in the Pacific Ocean.

The data collected will enable informed decision-making and regulatory development in advance of the start of a new resource industry

The program will include dozens of studies of pelagic and benthic biology, bathymetry and ecosystem function of the CCZ as part of DeepGreen’s environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for its proposed polymetallic nodule collection project.

The data collected will enable informed decision-making and regulatory development in advance of the start of a new resource industry, which DeepGreen says has the potential to provide billions of tonnes of critical battery metals required for the global transition to clean energy.

The participation of independent scientific institutions in DeepGreen’s ESIA underscores the company’s commitment to transparency during the exploration phase of an industry that some NGOs oppose (links) on the grounds that there is currently insufficient information about the deep sea to make informed decisions about impacts.

“This is a collaboration of the best minds in ocean science coming together to answer many important questions about deep-sea ecosystem function and connectivity throughout the water column,” said DeepGreen Chief Ocean Scientist, Dr. Greg Stone in the media statement. “The program will enable DeepGreen to put forward a rigorous, peer-reviewed environmental impact statement to the International Seabed Authority.”

One of the primary concerns that researchers will address is the impact of sediment plumes on deep-ocean fauna throughout the water column, and at varying spatial and temporal scales.

The global team of environmental scientists will work to deliver a state baseline biological survey of DeepGreen’s NORI exploration area to meet or exceed international regulatory requirements under the International Seabed Authority (ISA), established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

DeepGreen will use the insights gained from the survey to inform engineering decisions in order to further develop technologies to collect and uplift polymetallic nodules with as little impact as possible to the ocean.

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