In today’s environmentally conscious world, many companies are placing a high priority on sustainability as business leaders continue to recognize the fact that profitability and the preservation of natural resources can coexist. As a result, many corporate entities are now employing innovative ways of running their companies with sustainability as a prime objective.
One of the leaders in this endeavor is Toronto-based DeepGreen Metals Inc. who have begun going deep beneath the ocean floor to mine polymetallic nodules containing metals that are used to make batteries. The company is serious about addressing environmental issues like climate change and are proactively finding ways to create electric power without disrupting the earth’s ecosystem.
“Meeting the resource needs of nine billion people is one of the biggest challenges of our time,” says Brian Paes-Braga, Principal of Merchant Banking at Vancouver’s SAF Group and a member of the board of directors at DeepGreen Metals Inc. “We’re acutely aware that electric vehicles and renewable energy are part of the solution, and we also know that scalability on a global level will require access to hundreds of millions of tons of new metals.”
As a longtime advocate for environmental friendliness, Brian Paes-Braga was excited to join DeepGreen Metals, Inc.’s board and views the company’s mission as vital to the long-term survival of the earth.
“The company’s mission is to maintain a sustainable environment while providing a viable solution to the world’s ever-increasing power needs.”
Mining the Ocean Floor
For DeepGreen Metals, Inc., looking for a new source of metals needed for powering electric vehicles and storing energy led the company to the floor of the Pacific Ocean, in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a 4.5 million-square-kilometers region between Hawaii and Mexico. There, they found polymetallic nodules containing nickel, cobalt, copper, and manganese — all essential components of electric car batteries and other items — four to five miles below the floor.
To mine the nodules, they have to separate the metallic nodules from the mud, use a giant tube to pump them to a ship on the water’s surface, then return the water and fine particles through another tube.
With the realization that global demand for these metals will increase exponentially in the years ahead, DeepGreen Metals, Inc., which launched in 2011, began harvesting the nodules. By replicating in the laboratory, the calcination and smelting processes initially developed in the 1970s, they were able to obtain an iron-rich alloy nugget containing large amounts of nickel, copper and cobalt. They also produced a manganese silicate product, used by the manganese-alloy industry.
According to Paes-Braga, DeepGreen Metals, Inc.’s mining and processing of ocean nodules into usable, in-demand metals takes place with virtually no waste. It also supports the company’s corporate vision of eventually introducing the world’s first fleet of electric vehicles that have very little impact on the environment.
He believes that the demand for these metals will continue to grow in the years ahead, and that DeepGreen Metals, Inc.’s pioneering approach, combined with environmentally friendliness, will benefit countless people. The company is continuing to explore this technology as well as other processes that could have equally profound, positive implications.
“This is a lower impact and more ethical alternative to land-based mining as the world continues to transition to electric vehicles and carbon-free energy,” he says. “Today, as DeepGreen Metals, Inc. mines the ocean, the company also continues to dedicate significant resources to studying the impacts of metals mined from different sources.”
His words are echoed by Dr. Greg Stone, chief ocean scientist at DeepGreen, who added that, “When you perform a life cycle sustainability analysis as we have done, and you look at the dynamic and interacting systems of the whole earth — rainforests and mountains, deserts and oceans — it becomes clear that obtaining critical base metals from ocean nodules has the least impact in terms of biodiversity, carbon, ecosystem services and human communities.”
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