The Metals Company is looking to be the first company in the world to commercially mine the deep sea. Critics of the practice released leaked videos of an incident they say raises questions over environmental practices.
By Stefan Labbé, North Shore News
A Vancouver-based company looking to kick off a revolution in deep-sea mining has been caught violating its own protocols after two videos were leaked purporting to show waste sediment getting dumped into the Pacific Ocean, three advocacy groups claim.
The videos, released by MiningWatch Canada, Greenpeace International and Deep Sea Mining Campaign Tuesday, are alleged to have been captured last fall by scientists aboard ships owned by The Metals Company as it trialled its deep-sea mining technology roughly halfway between Hawaii and Mexico.
The two videos appear to show deep-sea sediment overflowing into the ocean from the deck of the company’s 228-metre-long former drill ship the Hidden Gem.
“That’s not supposed to be happening,” said Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada’s Asia-Pacific Program Coordinator. “Clearly, something went wrong here.”
The scientists who captured the video aboard the ship — and later leaked it to the three advocacy groups — had been paid by The Metals Company to monitor the environmental footprint of the company’s deep sea metal-harvesting technology, Coumans said.
In November 2022, the company said it had successfully deployed its treaded vehicle in the Pacific’s Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone, sucking up more than 3,000 tonnes of polymetalic nodules and transporting them up a 4.3-kilometre system of pipes to its mother ship.
The metallic nodules precipitate out of sea water over the course of tens of millions of years, and often form around a sunken shark tooth, tiny fossil or piece of basalt rock. Rich in nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese, the potato-size, deep-sea deposits have been heralded by The Metals Company’s founder as “a battery in a rock” expected to provide vast quantities of minerals to power an electric vehicle revolution.
In the past, collecting and raising them from 4,000 metres under the sea has proven technically challenging and too expensive to conduct at a commercial scale. The Metals Company says its latest deep-sea trial shows its technology works.
But Coumans says the leaked videos confirm opponents’ worries the company is not being transparent about its operations.
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