Researchers to Return to the Site of NORI’s Nodule Collection System Test
The Metals Company, an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, provides additional details on the previously announced offshore campaign to revisit the site of last year’s nodule collection system test conducted by its subsidiary, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) with the objective to assess seafloor impacts and recovery rates twelve months after the test. The Company expects to commence the campaign in Q4 2023.
Researchers plan to return to the NORI-D area in the Clarion Clipperton Zone to collect further environmental data for NORI’s application for an exploitation contract, which it expects to submit following the July 2024 meeting of the International Seabed Authority, as well as to inform its Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan.
Specialized research teams will use an array of boxcore and multi-core samplers as well as various benthic lander systems to assess impacts to biota and ecosystem function on the seafloor in NORI-D. Engineers at the surface will control a Remotely Operated Vehicle to support high-precision placement of the sampling equipment in the area directly disturbed by the Allseas-designed pilot collector vehicle, as well as in areas adjacent to, and at various distances from, the site of last year’s integrated collection system trials.
TMC Environmental Manager Dr. Michael Clarke, who is leading NORI’s ESIA, said: “As we bring together and process the wealth of data that we have gathered over the past 11 years, we’re using the additional time prior to our application submission to increase our knowledge base further. Building on observations from last year’s collector test monitoring campaign, the findings of this next campaign will greatly enhance the quality of our application and provide greater understanding for the regulator and stakeholders of how the abyssal ecosystem responds to our operations. This data will also be extremely valuable for our engineering teams as they refine the collection system to have a lighter touch.”
While on site, the engineering and science teams will also recover long-term oceanographic moorings and re-deploy two reference moorings from the NORI-D area before commencing long-term oceanographic monitoring on the TOML-F area held by TMC subsidiary Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd (TOML), which is adjacent to NORI-D.
NORI’s upcoming environmental campaign will add to the significant research that has been conducted in the deep sea. Since the late 1960s, over 300 hundred offshore campaigns have been conducted in international waters with over $2 billion invested in environmental baseline and impact studies and technology development, with most of the capital invested by private companies. To address knowledge gaps, research and investment have accelerated significantly since 2001 with governments and contractors like NORI spending over 6,000 days—the equivalent of almost 17 years—at sea, assessing the deep-sea environment.