TMC and PAMCO Sign Binding MoU to Complete Feasibility Study to Process Polymetallic Nodules into Battery Metal Feedstocks
The Metals Company Inc. (TMC), an explorer of the world’s largest estimated undeveloped source of critical battery metals, announced that it has signed a binding MoU with Pacific Metals Co Ltd (PAMCO) of Japan, where PAMCO will complete a feasibility study to toll treat 1.3 million tons of wet polymetallic nodules per year at its Hachinohe smelting facility expected to start in Q1 2026, consistent with the commencement of NORI’s planned first commercial production from the NORI-D Polymetallic Nodule Project at the end of 2025.
The toll treatment is expected to take place on a dedicated rotary kiln-electric arc furnace (RKEF) processing line and produce two products: nickel-copper-cobalt alloy—an intermediate product used as feedstock to produce Li-ion battery cathodes—and a manganese silicate product used to make silico-manganese alloy, a critical input into steel manufacturing.
PAMCO’s Hachinohe facility is located on the coast in northern Japan and is equipped with port and processing infrastructure required to receive and process polymetallic nodules and to ship products to customers.
PAMCO successfully completed a pre-feasibility exercise pursuant to a non-binding MoU signed by the parties in November 2022. Under the new binding MoU:
- PAMCO, with TMC support, expects to complete the feasibility study by Q3, 2024.
- TMC provides PAMCO with the exclusive right to the first 1.3Mtpa of the expected 3Mtpa of wet nodule collection capacity of the company’s first nodule collection system until completion of the feasibility study.
TMC signs binding MoU with PAMCO. (Image credit: TMC)
The parties will enter into good faith negotiations to finalize definitive processing agreements on completion of the feasibility study.
The feasibility study is expected to confirm operating parameters and product specifications for PAMCO’s dedicated production line and define the scope and execution plan for any additional equipment requirements, which are currently expected to be minor. An extended pilot demonstration program utilizing existing kilns and furnaces at PAMCO’s Hachinohe facility is expected to treat a 2,000 ton sample of polymetallic nodules collected during the successful pilot nodule collector test completed by Allseas in November 2022 on the NORI-D area, with the goal of optimizing the furnace refractory selection and confirm commercial scale operating parameters such as tapping temperatures and dusting rates when treating nodules through the Hachinohe facility. The cost of processing polymetallic nodules will be estimated to inform finalization of the definitive processing agreements.
In parallel, PAMCO is continuing to study the addition of a converting facility to process the intermediate alloy to nickel-copper-cobalt matte, which is an upgraded intermediate battery supply chain feedstock. It is expected that the additional facility would be constructed once commercial processing of polymetallic nodules to alloy has been demonstrated.
Gerard Barron, CEO & Chairman of The Metals Company, said: “We have been impressed with PAMCO’s technical and operating capability and are excited to progress to the next stage of our relationship with a trusted partner. Work to date has confirmed that the Hachinohe plant is well-suited to process nodules with near-zero solid waste, with little modification. We look forward to progressing with PAMCO on the upcoming feasibility study, finalizing the definitive agreements and ultimately processing nodules to provide the metals required for the energy transition.
“This binding MoU underscores our stated capital-light strategy to get into initial commercial production swiftly and with lower upfront capital by re-using existing onshore production assets, as well as by leveraging the deep operational expertise of our partners Allseas and PAMCO. These partnerships and our relentless focus on the environmental and social impacts of any future operations is how we unlock the enormous battery metal resource held by TMC.”
Masayuki Aoyama, PAMCO President, added: “We look forward to working further with TMC to enhance the value of the Hachinohe facility by processing a higher value material with a lower environmental impact. We are excited by the prospect of being the first commercial processor of polymetallic nodules and see the opportunity to emerge as supplier of Li–ion battery metals.”