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Working with The Metals Company to Produce High Purity Nickel Sulfate from Deep-Sea Minerals

May 29, 2024

The production of nickel sulfate from polymetallic nodules offers the battery chemicals supply chain an alternative source.

SGS is delighted to announce that we were contracted by The Metals Company (TMC) to test, confirm and optimize its onshore processing flowsheet. In what is believed to be a first for the mining sector, this test work has led to the production of high purity nickel sulfate from polymetallic nodules, suitable for the battery chemicals market. TMC, through its onshore processing activities, has shown that it can produce a high-purity nickel sulfate product derived exclusively from seabed polymetallic nodules, offering the battery chemicals supply chain an alternative source.

The nickel sulfate was generated during hydrometallurgical bench-scale testing of TMC’s matte samples produced from their upstream pilot plant operations at SGS’s Metallurgical Center of Excellence testing facility in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada. Since the introduction of the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy in December 2022, SGS has been aligned with Canada’s role as a global leader in the mining and processing of critical minerals.

SGS is pleased to support TMC's efforts to develop an onshore hydrometallurgical flowsheet for processing high-grade nickel matte into nickel sulfate and cobalt sulfate, a crucial step in producing battery materials. At the core of this activity is the application of conventional metallurgical processes to unconventional feed streams, such as deep-sea polymetallic nodules,” said Stephen Mackie, Senior Director of Metallurgy and Consulting at SGS in North America. “The Lakefield-based extractive metallurgy team carried out a comprehensive test work program focusing on the optimization of a flowsheet producing cobalt sulfate, nickel sulfate, copper cathode and fertilizer byproducts from nickel matte samples derived from smelting TMC nodules.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a United Nations-chartered intergovernmental body charged with developing deep-sea mining regulations by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has set a 2025 goal to issue rules governing seafloor extraction. Deep-sea exploration processes started in 2001 with six projects. In 2024, roughly 30 exploration projects are underway. Notably, TMC projects are ranked as the world’s first and second largest undeveloped nickel projects according to Mining.com, containing in situ quantities of nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese sufficient to meet the needs of 280 million electric vehicles – roughly the size of the entire US light vehicle fleet. This is timely, given draft legislation introduced in the US in March 2024, asking for the provision of “financial, diplomatic, or other forms of support for seafloor nodule collection, processing and refining.”

SGS is committed to delivering innovation in extractive metallurgy while upholding our company's strong commitment to sustainability. SGS and its metallurgical experts are keen to support the development of the onshore processing component of the deep-sea mining sector,” said Carlos Cordoba, Vice President of Natural Resources at SGS in North America. “Together with our clients, SGS continues to strive for excellence, which goes hand in hand with positively impacting industry and the environment.” 

About The Metals Company

The Metals Company is an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, on a dual mission: (1) supply metals for the global energy transition with the least possible negative impacts on planet and people and (2) trace, recover and recycle the metals it supplies to help create a metal commons that can be used in perpetuity. Visit The Metals Company

For further information, please contact:

David Anonychuk
Global Vice President, Metallurgy and Consulting
t: +1 905 364 3771

About SGS

We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for sustainability, quality and integrity. Our 99,600 employees operate a network of 2,600 offices and laboratories around the world.

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