Canada's TMC says it will apply for seabed mining licence in 2024

3rd August 2023 By: Reuters

Canada's TMC says it will apply for seabed mining licence in 2024

SINGAPORE - Canada's The Metals Company aims to apply next year for a licence to start mining in the Pacific Ocean, with production expected to get underway by as early as the fourth quarter of 2025, it said in a statement.

TMC has been at the forefront of efforts to begin extracting polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor, a nascent industry that could boost supplies of metals considered vital to the global energy transition, including nickel and cobalt.

Environmental campaigners warn mining could have a catastrophic impact on marine ecosystems and say it should at least be delayed until the ocean environment is better understood and proper safeguards are put into place.

TMC said on Tuesday that its subsidiary, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) intends to submit the application to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) after the global regulator meets in July next year.

"Assuming a one-year review process, NORI expects to be in production in the fourth quarter of 2025," it said.

The company was originally expected to submit an application this year after Nauru, its sponsoring country, triggered the so-called "two-year rule" in 2021.

The rule put the ISA under pressure to "consider and provisionally approve" applications within two years even if it had not finished devising a regulatory code for the industry.

Deep sea mining could provide Nauru, a tiny Pacific island state with a population of around 11,000 people, with a vital source of income as it tries to manage the impact of climate change as well as a sharp decline in tourist revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has acknowledged that deep-sea mining could cause environmental damage but is calling on the ISA to set limits to ensure that mining is sustainable.

A meeting of the ISA Council last month all but ruled out applications this year, but countries opposed to ocean mining were also blocked from discussing a moratorium at the ISA's Assembly meeting last week.

"The meeting ended without a moratorium on deep-sea mining being discussed, despite clear and widespread support," said Martin Webeler, a researcher with the Environmental Justice Foundation.

A total of 21 countries are now calling for a halt, with France calling for a complete ban and others asking for a "precautionary pause" until protections are in place.

Greenpeace campaigner Louisa Casson described TMC's announcement as a "kick in the teeth" for those countries.

"It's clear that trying to mine the oceans is becoming politically toxic - even more so with zero rules in place. This is bullish talk to try and force governments into rushed decisions, but it will come back to bite them."