Pacific Ocean mining hopeful The Metals Company has engaged Bechtel to help it prepare an exploitation contract application for the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to mine nickel, copper and other metals in seafloor nodules at depths of 4km to 5.5km in the Clarion Clipperton Zone.
The Metals Company subsidiary Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI) received an exploration contract from the ISA in 2011. NORI and its partners have since spent about US$250 million to get to a “mid-prefeasibility study” stage of assessment of an area now said to host “the largest undeveloped nickel deposit in the world”. The process has included economic assessment of seafloor nodule extraction methods.
The Clarion Clipperton Zone area covered by NORI exploration contracts, in the North Pacific Ocean, includes the NORI-D Project Zero target where The Metals Company hopes to start production in the second half of next year.
It is aiming to make an exploitation contract submission in the second half of 2023.
Bechtel’s scope of work is to collect and compile technical and economic studies prepared by various consultants that will underpin NORI’s application.
“We look forward to working together and drawing on Bechtel’s extensive experience in mining projects so that NORI can deliver a first-of-its kind exploitation contract application to the ISA and ultimately bring this important resource of energy transition metals online in a responsible way,” The Metals Company CEO Gerard Barron said.
NORI formed a strategic alliance in 2019 with Swiss-based contractor Allseas to develop and validate a pilot nodule collection system that features the Hidden Gem production vessel, used to lift more than 3000 tonnes of nodules to the surface in the Clarion Clipperton Zone.
The pair are now working to upgrade the pilot unit into a production-ready commercial system.
The Metals Company, formerly DeepGreen Metals, has a current market value around US$225 million.