Rationale

DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE

It is predicted that by 2050 our planet will have a global population of 9.7 billion and 66 percent of people will live in cities. With 90 percent of this growth forecast in emerging economies, much of the necessary infrastructure does not yet exist and will require colossal amounts of metal to develop sustainably.

DECARBONISE ENERGY & TRANSPORT

We urgently need to decarbonise our energy and transport systems; clean energy technology is metal intensive. The World Bank estimates that more than three billion tons of new metal will be needed to deploy the necessary wind, solar and energy storage technologies required to keep climate change to below +2°C.

CIRCULAR ECONOMY

We share the ambition of reaching a circular economy in which waste is eliminated. All credible forecasts, however, agree that new primary sources of metal will continue to be needed for some time before we can close the loop. No amount of recycling, substitution, re-use, product re-design or system change can alter that.

WHOLE PLANET APPROACH

We need a whole planet approach to finding solutions for whole planet problems. The question we face as a global society is: how do we best source the metals we need for the future we want, responsibly? We need to explore all credible options – from land and sea – and choose only the most responsible.

The Twilight Zone

200 Meters

What is a nodule?

In the Central Pacific, deep on the ocean floor in an area known as the Clarion Clipperton Zone, lie billions of potato-sized rocks called polymetallic nodules. As their name suggests, they are multi-metal. They contain nickel, cobalt, manganese and copper, - critical metals for sustainable development, growth in urban infrastructure and clean energy technologies.

What is a nodule?
What is Patania?

Meet Patania II, a feat of modern engineering and ingenuity. GSR’s nodule-collecting vehicle is named after the fastest moving caterpillar on earth. On tracks, Patania can operate at 4500 m below the surface, using ground-breaking robotic technology and monitoring systems. Patania II communicates with the vessel above using a 5 km cable called the umbilical .

Find out more
What have we learned so far?

Deep seabed mining is an industry in the exploration, research and development phase. Years of detailed scientific work lie ahead before there is any prospect of commercial activity. GSR partners with world leading experts to ensure we get the science right; that decisions are based on best available scientific evidence; and that we contribute to marine scientific knowledge.

Find out more

See it in action

WHY LOOK TO THE DEEP?

NO DEFORESTATION

With polymetallic nodules, there are no forests to cut down or  overburden to remove.  The nodules sit on the ocean floor, unattached.

NO DISPLACEMENT

Unlike on land, there is no need to displace communities or risk of human rights issues. No infrastructure is built in ecologically sensitive areas.

40% LESS CARBON

A 2021 life cycle assessment study found that producing metals from polymetallic nodules has a 40% lower carbon footprint than the terrestrial alternatives.

SIZE OF RESOURCE

Polymetallic nodules are a multi-metal resource with more nickel, cobalt and manganese contained on less than 1% of the ocean floor, than all land-based reserves combined.

All credible studies show that vast quantities of primary metals will be required before the prospect of a circular economy can become a reality. Strategies such as recycling, substitution and reuse will not be sufficient to meet the demands created by population growth, urbanisation and the urgent need to decarbonise energy and transport.

Extracting metal from our planet comes at a cost. When metals come from land, often rainforests have to be cleared, mountains flattened, communities displaced and huge amounts of waste – much of it toxic – generated.

We need to take a holistic, whole planet, approach to determine the most responsible sources of metals. Diversification of supply will be critical, and polymetallic nodules could be an important part of the solution.

A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY SINCE 2012

GSR is exploring the possibility of collecting polymetallic nodules from the seafloor that could help humankind address climate change, population growth and urbanisation.

The Midnight Zone

1,000 Meters

News & insights

Our memberships and partnerships

The History

Interest in polymetallic nodules and the resource they can provide for humankind is not new.

They were first discovered 150 years ago during the 1872 voyage of HMS Challenger, a Royal Navy survey vessel that launched modern oceanography by mapping the ocean floor.

Economic interest in polymetallic nodules began to develop in the 1960s, which prompted the Maltese Ambassador Arvid Pardo to propose the development of ocean regulations to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1967.

Regulation

After 15 years of negotiations, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was agreed on and signed in 1982.

The Abyssal Zone

4,000 Meters