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SGS and TMC produce cobalt sulfate from deep-seafloor polymetallic nodules

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Fertilizer,

TMC has announced that it has produced the world’s first cobalt sulfate derived exclusively from seafloor polymetallic nodules. The cobalt sulfate was generated during bench-scale testing of TMC’s hydrometallurgical flowsheet design with SGS Canada Inc. The test work was carried out at SGS’ Metallurgical Centre of Excellence testing facility in Lakefield, Ontario.

Based on samples of nickel-cobalt-copper matte first produced by TMC in 2021, the Extractive Metallurgy team at SGS tested TMC’s efficient flowsheet to process high-grade nickel-copper-cobalt matte directly to high-purity cobalt sulfate without making cobalt metal, while producing fertilizer byproducts instead of solid waste or tailings. This milestone follows April’s successful production of nickel sulfate, a key raw material input used in the production of energy-dense electric vehicle batteries.

“This achievement further demonstrates the potential for seafloor polymetallic nodules as a valuable resource,” said Dr. Jeffrey Donald, TMC Head of Onshore Development. “Following the success of our first nickel sulfate production in April, production of the world’s first cobalt sulfate from deep-seafloor nodules is another important milestone for TMC and for creating a responsible supply of metals required for human flourishing. SGS continues to execute at a high level and this milestone demonstrates the viability of our process and our dedication to near-zero solid waste nodule processing.”

Carlos Cordoba, Vice President of Natural Resources at SGS North America, commented: “SGS is pleased to support TMC in achieving another milestone towards commercialisation of polymetallic nodules suitable for the battery chemicals market. Our technical expertise in extractive metallurgy is driving innovation in the mining industry and we look forward to continuing to set the benchmark as a trusted service provider at every stage of the mining project lifecycle.”

TMC and SGS’ success in deriving cobalt sulfate from seafloor polymetallic nodules is a key milestone in advancing TMC’s mission to supply metals for the global energy transition with the least possible negative impacts on planet and people.

In April, TMC and SGS produced the world’s first nickel sulfate derived exclusively from seafloor polymetallic nodules. TMC’s NORI and TOML projects are ranked as the world’s #1 and #2 largest undeveloped nickel projects according to, 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. With analysts warning that the quantities of critical battery metals like nickel and cobalt available from domestic or allied partners will be insufficient to meet US demand from the energy transition, there is increased interest in and prioritisation of marine minerals to support energy and national security.

In May, Congress allocated US$2 million to the Defense Department’s Industrial Base Policy Office to study the feasibility of domestic nodule refining capacity. In March, members of the House of Representatives introduced draft legislation calling for the US to ‘provide financial, diplomatic, or other forms of support for seafloor nodule collection, processing and refining.’ In November 2023 TMC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Pacific Metals Corporation (PAMCO) to complete a feasibility study to process 1.3 million t of wet polymetallic nodules (PMN) per year into high-grade nickel-copper-cobalt alloy / matte and manganese silicate, which are feedstock for the production of lithium-ion batteries, electrical infrastructure and steel.

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