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Company studies metal mining 1,100 miles off San Diego coast

Deep sea metals are used for batteries
Posted at 2:54 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 23:29:23-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A crew of shipmen and scientists are getting ready to go on a 46-day voyage one thousand miles off the coast of San Diego to study the extraction of precious metals that they say can lead to a greener future.

In the not-so-far future, our roads will be full of electric vehicles, which means we will need a lot of batteries.

"The extractive industry like mining need to increase by 500 to 600% by annum," CEO of The Metals Company Gerard Barron said.

The problem is, the supply of raw materials on land is either drying up or sitting on undeveloped rain forests. Plus, pollution caused by land mining is astronomical. So, where to next?

"We think the ocean provides the answer to that," Barron said.

Several times a year, researchers and shipmen from The Metals Company head 1,100 miles off the coast of San Diego to the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which was discovered by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1950. On the ocean floor, there are millions of nodules or rocks that contain nickel, cobalt, copper, and manganese. These are all ingredients of batteries.

"It's a little bit like walking onto the golf driving range that's littered with balls," Barron said. "But they are nodules that contain all the battery metals."

No one country owns that area of the ocean. Instead, it is governed by the United Nations and is separated into 16 licensed mining zones.

"The team of Remote Operated Vehicle pilots, the ship, the science, we all work in concert as one team," Edward Cassano, CEO of Pelagic Research Services, said.

Scientists use robotic vehicles to study the environmental impacts of picking up the nodules and the underwater species that live around them.

"You don't have to drill to get to them. You don't have to blast like you do with land-based mining," Barron added.

Barron said, ten years into launching his company, they are quite literally only scratching the surface. But he is confident this will lead to a Greener world.

"For San Diego and Californian business communities, there's going to be tremendous economic opportunities that come as a result of this industry," Barron said.

It is estimated that there are 21 billion tons of nodules in the extraction zone, enough to make hundreds of billions of electric car batteries.