VANCOUVER, BC, Canada and CHATEL-SAINT-DENIS, Switzerland – The Metals Company and partner Allseas Group say they have successfully tested a pilot module collector vehicle on the floor of the North Sea.
The testing confirmed critical drive functions including the robotic vehicle’s ability to maneuver forwards and backwards at various speeds and in different directions, as well as to raise and lower the nodule’s adjustable collector heads, another critical function.
Engineers were also able to test dynamic positioning systems aboard the Hidden Gem, the Allseas collection vessel, confirming the vessel’s ability to adjust speed and heading as the collector drives across the seafloor.
The testing, which took place in Dutch waters, was hailed as “a key milestone” by Metals Company CEO and chairman Gerard Barron. Earlier, Canada-based Metals Company and Swiss-based Allseas Group had tested the pilot vehicle in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.
The companies are now planning sea trials in the Pacific Ocean between Mexico and Hawaii, where they want to mine fist-sized nodules of nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese on the ocean floor.
The Metals Company is working with Epsilon Carbon to complete a pre-feasibility study for a commercial-scale deep-sea nodule processing plant in India, beginning in Q4 2024. The plant would produce more than 30,000 tonnes/year of an intermediate nickel-copper-cobalt matte product used for active cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries and more than 750,000 t/y of manganese silicate to be used in the steel industry.
The deal is dependent on the Metals Company getting approval from the UN’s International Seabed Authority to mine the nodules. The agency is aiming to complete first-ever regulations on ocean-floor mining by July 2023. Critics warn such mining may create environmental problems.