Image credits: Russ Widger
News Article

TMC To Start Deep-Sea Exploitation

By Fernando Mares | Thu, 09/15/2022 - 15:34

Canada’s The Metals Company (TMC), a subsidiary of Nauru Ocean Resources Incorporated (NORI), announced that it will start deep-sea exploitation activities in the Clarion-Clipperton area in the coming days. Therefore, the company is preparing its Hidden Gem ship, located in the port of Manzanillo, Colima.

According to the company, the exploitation of minerals will take place between Clipperton Island, which is French territory, and Clarion Island, which belongs to Mexico. Last week, the International Sea-bed Authority (ISA) granted a permit for the exploration and collection of polymetallic nodules, rocks containing different metals found in the Pacific Ocean. 

Despite TMC’s efforts to develop deep-sea mining, some environmental organizations are worried that this activity could compromise not only the ocean’s ecosystems but the global environment, too. Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity (CDB) and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) warned that ISA’s permit is another step toward opening up deep-sea mining activity. This issue began materializing in July 2021, when the company filed a request at the ISA for an exploitation contract. “[the request] has resulted in a race to finalize and adopt mining regulations in 2023, which will leave the ocean exposed to damages caused by large-scale mining activity,” the NGOs stated. 

Ornela Garelli, Ocean Activist, Green Peace, complained about the ISA’s stance. According to her, instead of protecting the ocean, it is handing it over to companies like TMC, “Which, although it is registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission has shown contempt for the impact that such activities have on the ocean.”

NGOs accused the company of carefully cultivating a close-knit relationship with ISA, which led to competitive advantages like access to privileged information that allowed the company to control some areas that are considered to hold important mineral reserves. 

Deep-sea mining has caught the attention of several institutions and organizations. Some of them consider this activity to be a boon to productivity, since ore recovered from the seabed may have up to 99 percent of usable metals, while terrestrial ore has less than 20 percent. A report from National Geographic shows that the ocean holds over US$150 trillion in gold in terms of value. What is more, the cobalt reserves that are presumably in the ocean could help in meeting the future demand for this metal. According to the World Bank, cobalt production needs to grow by 450 percent between 2018 and 2050 to power the green energy transition.

While there is resistance against deep-sea mining, some advocates argue that this activity is less harmful than terrestrial mining since no people must be displaced and the land remains unharmed. Nonetheless, there is no consensus about the potential impact of this activity.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, La Jornada
Photo by:   Russ Widger
Fernando Mares Fernando Mares Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst