THE RACE TO SEND ROBOTS TO MINE THE OCEAN FLOOR – by Eric Niiler (Wired Magazine – June 4, 2018)

WHEN THE 300-FOOT Maersk Launcher docked in San Diego early Monday morning, it unloaded a cargo of hardened black blobs scooped from the bottom of the sea. The blobs are not rocks, but naturally-occurring metallic nodules that could one day yield metal deposits of cobalt, manganese, and nickel—not to mention scarce rare earth minerals.

As worldwide demand rises for electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, along with next generation technologies and weapon systems, demand for these metals has taken off. And the seabed is a prime target for those mining operations. Of course, it’s no small feat to bring these potato-sized nodules from the bottom of the remote Pacific Ocean, and then sail them to a processing plant where the metals can be extracted.

But leaders of Canada-based mining company DeepGreen Metals and its subsidiary NORI (Nauru Ocean Resources Inc.) think they have figured out how to harvest the nodules without wrecking the deep ocean habitat—and make a profit at the same time.

“Nature created this abundant resource filled with all the metals we need for our future,” says Deep Green CEO Gerard Barron, a former advertising technology entrepreneur from Australia who says he has plowed $8 million of his own money into the undersea mining enterprise. “It’s the new oil. Everything you need to build an EV battery is contained in our nodules.”

A team of more than 70 DeepGreen technicians, researchers, and scientists just completed a seven-week voyage aboard the Maersk Launcher to the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a 1.7 million square mile hunk of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico where much of the world’s supply of these nodules exist.

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