CSIRO joins forces with TMC to develop underwater monitoring plan

13th July 2022 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Battery metals explorer The Metals Company (TMC), through its Australian subsidiary, The Metals Company Australia, has joined forces with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to potentially develop an ecosystem-based management and monitoring plan (EMMP) for its proposed deep-sea polymetallic nodule collection operations in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean.

The CSIRO-led consortium will leverage TMC’s extensive environmental baseline data, acquired in the company’s NORI project area in the CCZ, to help develop appropriate indicators and tolerance limits to create safe parameters for collecting seafloor nodules.

The work will form the scientific foundation of TMC’s future adaptive management system (AMS), which is a predictive system that will use environmental and operational data to enable the company to mitigate operational impacts in the deep-sea environment as much as possible.

TMC said that a core component of this system will be its digital twin, which is expected to provide robust scenario testing of seafloor mine plans, monitoring of nodule collection operations and a dynamic dashboard for review by stakeholders.

“Last year our subsidiary, NORI, completed environmental baseline studies in partnership with leading marine research institutions. We’ve now got one of the world’s most extensive deep-sea datasets to hand over to the CSIRO-led consortium, experts with the practical experience we need to develop a scientifically robust framework for a marine ecosystem-based management program for NORI-D,” TMC chairperson and CEO Gerard Barron said.

“I’m thrilled that these trusted and independent institutions have agreed to undertake this research, setting a high bar for future work in this industry.”

The company expects to employ the science-based framework developed by the CSIRO-led consortium in the AMS, which will also draw on expert opinion and machine learning to improve operational efficiencies and reduce the uncertainty of environmental impacts over time, ahead of planned commercial operations expected to start in 2024.