Industry News

The Metals Company Engages Benchmark Mineral Intelligence to Produce Life Cycle Assessment of NORI-D Polymetallic Nodule Project

TMC the metals company Inc. (Nasdaq: TMC) (“TMC” or “The Metals Company”), an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, announced that it has chosen the leading lithium-ion battery supply chain research firm, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (“Benchmark”), to conduct an independent life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of the Company’s planned NORI-D Polymetallic Nodule Project and compare these impacts to producing the same metals from commonly used production pathways using conventional land ores.

The Benchmark LCA study will investigate the potential cradle-to-gate impacts of producing important battery materials including nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, copper cathode, manganese silicate and an intermediate NiCuCo matte product from seafloor polymetallic nodules in the NORI-D area. These raw materials are widely used as active cathode materials (CAM) for NMC and other nickel-rich cathode chemistries for lithium-ion batteries, enabling the rapid growth of electrified transport and energy storage. The study will draw upon the Initial Assessment of the NORI-D Property independently compiled by AMC in accordance with the SEC Regulation S-K (subpart 1300) in March 2021 and a range of processing plant location scenarios developed by TMC since then. The Benchmark team will also include an additional third-party verification of the NORI-D Project LCA to ensure its compliance with ISO14040 and 14044 guidelines and standards.

The LCA specialists at Benchmark will draw upon their extensive global baseline impact data of battery precursor materials derived from conventional ores to produce a comparison to the NORI-D Project LCA across multiple categories including global warming potential and disruption of carbon sinks (CO2equivalent emissions), waste, water and land use, terrestrial acidification, freshwater and marine eutrophication. Benchmark anticipates completing its comprehensive LCA for TMC in mid-Summer 2022.

Where should metals for the clean energy transition come from?

“Since 2019 TMC has been digging into the data to build a planetary perspective on the impacts of sourcing the metals we will need to electrify one billion EVs,” said Erica Ocampo, Chief Sustainability Officer for The Metals Company. “Our investment in this research has led to the publication of several comparative LCA papers, including a comprehensive white paper covering ~20 impact indicators and two peer-reviewed papers on climate change impacts and waste impacts published in high-impact journals. Based on this work and at a time when the hunt for new mineral resources is expanding into the most biodiverse carbon sinks on the planet, we believe that the polymetallic nodule resource could offer a better way forward to meet the massive metal demand of the clean energy transition. But this is the first time we are commissioning an LCA specifically for our NORI-D Nodule Project, rather than a global EV demand scenario. With first production expected in 2024, we’re delighted to have Benchmark’s independent assessment of how our NORI-D Project stacks up against the known impacts of current land-based supply.”

Charlotte Selvey Miller, Head of ESG at Benchmark, commented: “Benchmark’s ESG division publishes independent assessments, including Global Baseline LCA data, on the lithium-ion battery supply chain and how companies are working towards and managing environmental, social and governance risks and concerns, which is providing detailed insights and ESG metrics not yet seen before in the industry. Through comparing company-specific LCAs, such as this one for The Metals Company, to the Benchmark Global Baseline LCAs, we create the ability to compare processes to an industry average. This allows companies to effectively analyze the ESG risks and opportunities associated with projects to environmentally streamline their processes and approach. Considering the up-scale in global demand, this type of work is an important step in minimizing the upstream impacts of feeding global electrification and the clean energy transition.”

Amid a historic decline in ore grades and in the face of rapidly rising demand, the search for new sources of metals for the clean energy transition risks exacerbating the planetary and social impacts of mining on land. Production of energy transition metals will need to increase six-fold by 2040 to meet the world’s ambitious climate targets, according to the International Energy Agency. The TMC’s portfolio of nodule projects contains an estimated in situ resource of battery metals equivalent to the requirements for 280 million electric vehicles – or the size of the entire U.S. light vehicle fleet.

In January, TMC announced the publication of a peer-reviewed study in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology which found that seafloor polymetallic nodules could significantly reduce — and in some scenarios eliminate — the onshore solid waste streams typically generated by metal production from land ores. An earlier peer-reviewed study – published in the Journal of Cleaner Production – found that sourcing critical battery metals from seafloor nodules could reduce the lifecycle climate impacts by up to 90%, compared to land ores.

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