Lifecycle Assessment by Benchmark Shows TMC’s NORI-D Nodule Project Could Outperform Land-Based Routes of Producing Nickel, Copper and Cobalt in Almost Every Impact Category Analyzed

  • Reviewed by an independent third-party expert, the ISO-standard-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) completed by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence compared the production of key energy transition metals (nickel, cobalt and copper) from the NORI-D Nodule Project to key land-based production routes for the same metals
  • The LCA scope covered mining, transport, processing and refining, and focused on seven impact categories including: carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) and particulate emissions; marine and freshwater eutrophication; terrestrial acidification; stratospheric ozone depletion; as well as additional research into waste generation
  • Benchmark’s LCA shows the NORI-D Nodule Project model performed better in almost every impact category analyzed than all the land-based routes chosen for comparison
  • This LCA follows several years of investment by TMC in peer-reviewed industry-level LCA research to understand global environmental and social impacts of producing battery metals from seafloor nodules and how they compare to current metal production from land ores

NEW YORK - March 21, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- TMC the metals company Inc. (“TMC” or “The Metals Company”), an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, today announced that leading lithium-ion battery supply chain research firm, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (“Benchmark”), has completed an independent third-party lifecycle assessment of the environmental impacts of the Company’s planned NORI-D Polymetallic Nodule Project as it looks to bring online the planet’s largest undeveloped deposit of critical battery metals. The full LCA report can be downloaded here and a summary document here.

Benchmark’s team of LCA practitioners set out to assess the potential impacts of mining, transport, processing and refining ('cradle-to-gate’) of important battery materials including an intermediate NiCuCo matte product and final end-products nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate and copper cathode from seafloor polymetallic nodules collected from the NORI-D area. They then compared these impacts to producing the same metals via key land-based routes, including from Indonesian nickel laterites and mixed sulfides and oxides mined in the DRC. These raw material inputs are widely used in active cathode materials (CAM) for nickel-rich cathode chemistries for lithium-ion batteries and electrical wiring, enabling the rapid growth of electrified transport and energy storage.

Seven environmental impact categories critical for the metal industry were analyzed—global warming potential, stratospheric ozone depletion, terrestrial acidification, freshwater and marine eutrophication, particulate matter formation, water consumption—and supplementary research into waste generation was also conducted. Nickel, cobalt and copper products derived from the NORI-D Nodule Project performed better in almost every impact category, except for global warming potential (GWP) and water consumption of producing cobalt sulfate, where one land-based route performed better. With over half of nickel now being sourced from beneath biodiverse rainforests and carbon sinks in Indonesia, the study found that TMC’s nickel sulfate product would outperform not just Indonesian nickel but all other key land-based production routes, lowering emissions by between 70-80% on average, including with 70% lower GWP.

“This lifecycle assessment is one of the many science-based tools that TMC is using to quantify the impacts of our NORI-D project, which is helping us achieve two stated goals: to identify the impact hotspots of our future operations to address them before they begin; and to provide a clear picture of how they compare to the existing sources of the same metals today,” said Erica Ocampo, Chief Sustainability Officer for The Metals Company. “Every extractive activity has an impact on our planet and as society sets about securing the raw materials critical for the energy transition, we must carefully consider the environmental and social costs of all the options on the table, and use the data to make informed decisions about what costs are acceptable. LCAs like the one prepared by Benchmark are invaluable in helping us answer these challenging questions. Importantly, this LCA does not cover social impacts or impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function—these impacts for the offshore nodule collection part of the lifecycle are being analyzed as part of our ongoing NORI-D Environmental and Social Impact Assessment program.”

Amid a historic decline in ore grades and in the face of rapidly rising demand, the search for new sources of metals for the energy transition risks exacerbating the environmental 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. TMC’s portfolio of nodule projects contains an estimated in situ resource of battery metals equivalent to the requirements of 280 million electric vehicles – approximately 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 change impacts by up to 90%, compared to land ores.

About The Metals Company
The Metals Company is an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, on a dual mission: (1) supply metals for the clean energy transition with the least possible negative environmental and social impact and (2) accelerate the transition to a circular metal economy. The Company through its subsidiaries holds exploration and commercial rights to three polymetallic nodule contract areas in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean regulated by the International Seabed Authority and sponsored by the governments of Nauru, Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga.

About Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
Benchmark is the world’s leading provider of actionable intelligence for the lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle supply chain. Benchmark’s expertise, together with unique and rigorous data collection processes, add real knowledge to opaque industries that are central to the lithium-ion economy.

Their services guide the biggest investment decisions, government policy and industry collaboration around the world. Benchmark’s expertise is reinforced by its ESG division that offers a set of subscription and consultancy services providing robust metrics and Life Cycle Assessments measuring the sustainability of the EV supply chain build out. Benchmark ESG provides bespoke independent assessments of the material risks organizations face and investor-driven analysis, driving ESG through the heart of the EV supply chain’s companies. Benchmark ESG assessments assist in reducing future compensation associated with poor ESG risk identification in an industry where sustainability is being widely critiqued.

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