In the first integrated nodule collection system test conducted in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean since the 1970s, TMC the metals company Inc. (TMC) and Allseas successfully collected a first batch of seafloor nodules and transported them up a 4 km long riser system to the surface.

During a 60-minute pilot collection run across about 150 m of the seafloor, almost 14 tons of nodules were collected by the pilot collector vehicle, transported to the surface using a 4.3 km riser system and placed into the hold of the surface production vessel Hidden Gem.

The environmental impacts of the collector system trials are being extensively monitored with an array of more than 50 subsea sensors and monitoring stations. Any changes in the marine environment that may occur during testing of the collector system will be assessed with data from 20 strategically positioned sediment collection stations. Additional marine ecosystem effects will be examined by use of acoustic moorings and landers to measure sound propagation, remotely operated vehicles collecting water samples in the plume; optical backscatter and laser diffraction sensors to measure sediment particle settling velocity, and trace metal samplers.

TMC expects to harvest lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules to support the transition to a circular economy with the least possible negative environmental and social impacts. Commercial operation of the seafloor nodule collection system is scheduled to begin in 2024.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com