Will the electric vehicles of the future be affected by deep-sea metals?
Both expeditions will collect basic environmental data on the types of marine organisms that live on the ground floor, the composition of the bottom sediments, and the flow of underwater currents of different chemicals and depths. Knowing these control measurements will be important to know if such extraction can be done without destroying underwater habitat.
“Our goal is to find out how much sediment the harvest collector will remove along with the nodules,” he says Matthias Haeckel, Marine biochemist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Ocean Research Center in Kiel (Germany), who is coordinating the environmental study of GSR activities in a project called MiningImpact. “That’s never been done.”
Sedimented feathers can damage bottom creatures, such as sponges and corals that form the basis of the food chain in the deep-sea ecosystem. If the granule remains suspended in the water, it can also affect fish and other marine life. Haeckel and his team have about 50 types of sensors to measure sediment both in the water and on the seabed. According to Haeckel, it will provide the first quantitative scientific evidence on the effects of nodule extraction on the environment in real-world mining scenarios.
“We know that sediment feathers don’t rise very high, they’re only 5 or 10 feet,” he says. “Now it’s basically about understanding how well the particles settle. We want to measure how thick a layer is and how thin it is at a distance, so that we can determine its effect. “
DeepGreen and GSR have received exploration licenses International Seabed Authority, A UN agency that monitors access to mineral wealth in the area. It will not be possible to start real mining until the authorities approve the new environmental regulations and issue extraction licenses. The agency has awarded 30 exploration contracts in 22 different countries and affiliated mining companies to obtain deep-sea minerals.
Gerard Barron, founder and CEO of DeepGreen, is committed to acting responsibly towards the environment. Barron says ocean minerals are a better option than extraction from China or from mines in politically mixed regions. “Everyone realizes that going to electric vehicles is very metallic in intensity and the question is, where the hell are they going to come from?” says Barron. “We represent an opportunity for America to achieve independence.”
Barron says 64 tons of metric stone are needed to produce enough of the four minerals needed to make the earth’s EV battery and its cables — about 341 pounds. But only 6 tons of polymetallic seabed nodules are needed to achieve the same amount, as the metals are more concentrated.
Nodes were formed millions of years ago when naturally occurring minerals formed from seawater and sediment formed around microscopic parts of debris, rocks, bones, or other nodules. They are more common in places with low dissolved oxygen levels and in certain geological conditions, such as the equatorial Pacific. 21 billion tons have been estimated of them.
According to a company spokesman, DeepGreen currently has about $ 570 million available to fund mining. The company is exploring sites in Texas, Quebec and Norway to make nodules for a processing plant to make usable materials for batteries, sites close to renewable energy sources, and even mineral markets. Barron says the processing of nodules on the seabed would be relatively easy. They are first dried in a rotary kiln, which is a type of electric kiln. “The first step is to separate manganese from nickel, cobalt and copper,” he says. “They form a mat-like material for battery grading material, be it powder or metal sulfates.”