A seafloor mining expedition, using the offshore support vessel Maersk Launcher, was launched on April 12 in San Diego.
It is the first of five offshore campaigns resulting from an alliance between DeepGreen subsidiary Nauru Ocean Research Inc. (NORI) and Maersk Supply Service. The aim is to satisfy demand for the essential metals required to power electric vehicles and renewable energy such as cobalt, nickel and copper.
The voyage is a continuation of the work required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement that NORI aims to submit to the International Seabed Authority, a necessary step to move the exploration license to an exploitation license. NORI will be carrying out surveys within a 75,000-square kilometer contract area of the Eastern Pacific's abyssal plain, granted to NORI by the Authority.
DeepGreen and NORI are developing technology that they say will allow the responsible production of polymetallic nodules. The metals will be brought to the surface and treated onshore using DeepGreen's patented processing technology, which aims to produce zero waste. The polymetallic nodules, usually small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, will be processed for metals such as cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese.
DeepGreen's achievements have already drawn attention from miner and metal trader Glencore which has contracted to buy a percentage of the nickel and copper produced from a DeepGreen processing plant. Glencore has also made an investment in DeepGreen.
Gerard Barron, CEO of DeepGreen, said: "We believe these future metals can be produced responsibly, protecting ocean health, while avoiding the deforestation, pollution and child labor that too often are part of traditional mining."
In 2011, NORI became the first company to obtain a license from the United Nations' International Seabed Authority to explore for minerals in the international seabed area. It will not operate near shallow coral reefs, volcanic ocean vents nor require digging, drilling or use of explosives.
"We are pleased to see that our specialized assets are being utilized in a unique and whole new market area,” says CEO of Maersk Supply Service, Steen S. Karstensen. “Although deep sea mineral recovery is in an early stage and production is a few years away, it is a promising business area with the potential for significant future growth and links into Maersk Supply Service overall strategy about diversifying its business into new markets.