The Metals Company Announces an Extensive Deep-sea Environmental Data Submission to the International Seabed Authority
TMC the metals company Inc. (Nasdaq: TMC) (“TMC” or the “Company”), an explorer of the world’s largest estimated undeveloped source of critical battery metals, announced that its subsidiary NORI had begun the process of submitting data collected during 17 offshore resource definition and environmental baseline campaigns in the NORI-D exploration area to DeepData, an open database of contractor data managed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
The submission of the initial batch of data, which includes an extensive set of biological samples and images from the seafloor, follows NORI’s decade-long research efforts to define the polymetallic nodule resource and develop an environmental baseline for its NORI-D exploration area, as part of its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the NORI-D Nodule Project. Since 2012, the Company has collaborated with leading industry experts and independent scientists from marine research institutions from around the world on its ESIA, gathering data throughout 17 offshore campaigns, representing over 470 operational research days on the NORI-D area.
Collected using a suite of high-tech equipment, the dataset submitted to the ISA includes over 1,400 biological samples from extensive boxcore and multicore sampling, and over 8,000 images analysed for benthic megafauna captured by Remotely Operated Vehicles from two offshore campaigns. This first submission of benthic data will provide a significant expansion to the biological holdings contained within the ISA’s ‘DeepData’ platform by contributing over 270,000 occurrences.
Dr Michael Clarke, Environmental Manager at The Metals Company, said: “There are over a quarter of a million data occurrences in the batch that has just been submitted to the ISA and yet, it is just the tip of the data iceberg collected by NORI to date. This and upcoming data submissions by NORI will help facilitate informed decision-making about the potential impacts of nodule collection operations based on actual environmental data rather than conjecture and speculation which has often dominated the conversation up to this point.”
The data-gathering efforts of the independent scientists involved in NORI’s ESIA program have already begun to yield novel insights about biodiversity, ecosystem processes and how we observe oceanic ecosystems with various papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Dr Adrian Glover, Merit Researcher at Natural History Museum London and benthic macrofauna research lead, commented: “Seven taxonomic papers are currently in preparation from the studies, including two already published” and “The new data from this first tranche of baseline data form the largest molecular-based assessment of quantitative macrofaunal box cores to date in the CCZ. Analysis of an additional 40 box cores is under way to be completed by August 2023.”
Contributions from ROV imagery and specimens collected during NORI-D pelagic campaigns have assisted in resolving diagnostic characteristics of hydrozoans (related to jellyfish). The novel use of the Saildrone ASV (autonomous surface vehicle) to examine micronekton in the open ocean provides some of the only remote sampling of pelagic prey communities in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Such studies are essential to describing the interactions between mesoscale features and pelagic fauna to help understand how these communities will respond to a changing ocean environment that may be induced by nodule collection activities and broader climate-related shifts.
Over the coming months, NORI will continue working with research teams to fully collate and categorize the hundreds of terabytes of data and thousands of biological samples that have been collected to date. The total NORI-D dataset is expected to be one of the most comprehensive datasets ever compiled in the deep sea. Given the breadth of the dataset, NORI expects numerous further papers to be published in peer-reviewed journals in the coming months and years, adding significantly to society’s understanding of the deep sea.