Nodule-derived Manganese Silicate
- SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest independent research institutions, was retained by The Metals Company to analyze its manganese silicate used to produce silicomanganese for steelmaking and found that it behaves similarly to traditional manganese sources
- TMC’s high-grade nodule-derived manganese silicate (Mn silicate) appears to have significant advantages over conventional Mn ores on cost and CO2 footprint, with the potential for 7 to 17% higher value-in-use, depending on carbon tax regimes
- The analysis validates TMC’s potential to provide a significant metals source beyond the clean energy transition and into the steelmaking value chain, which the Company estimates could account for almost 30% of its future revenues
NEW YORK, May 03, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — TMC the metals company Inc. (Nasdaq: TMC) (“TMC” or the “Company”), an explorer of the world’s largest undeveloped source of critical battery metals, today revealed that recent studies conducted by SINTEF, an independent research institution based in Norway and retained by TMC to undertake test work and value-in-use analysis, confirm that TMC’s nodule-derived manganese silicate product has similar properties to manganese ores and is suitable for further processing into key steel-making feedstocks like silicomanganese alloy (SiMn).
While much of the interest in polymetallic nodules has been driven by surging demand for nickel, cobalt and copper for the clean energy transition, the development of TMC’s vast nodule resource could prove transformational for manganese markets with the potential to become an abundant, accessible source of the important base metal with significant opportunities to reduce lifecycle ESG impacts compared to land-based mining.
Investigators at SINTEF’s facilities in Norway set out to assess whether TMC’s manganese silicate product could meet the specifications required by potential customers in the steelmaking value chain. SINTEF’s report finds that TMC’s nodule-derived Mn silicate has a high grade but lower oxidation state compared to land-based ores, which can potentially reduce the energy intensity — and overall cost — of SiMn production. For a manganese industry accustomed to slim single-digit margins, SINTEF’s findings point to the potential for TMC’s nodule-derived manganese product to improve the economics of alloy production while also reducing the industry’s carbon footprint as compared to manganese from traditional Mn ore.
Vincent Canaguier, a SINTEF researcher who worked on the study, said: “From a metallurgical point of view, TMC’s material is promising: its high manganese and low phosphorous contents make it a strong candidate for SiMn production.”
Dr. Jeffrey Donald, Head of Onshore Development for The Metals Company, said: “SINTEF’s results show that the manganese silicate product from our metallurgical process is a valuable and high-quality input to the steelmaking supply chain, further validating our near-zero solid waste flowsheet and offering producers of silicomanganese alloy an alternative feedstock that provides an opportunity to lower their costs in comparison to alloy production using traditional manganese ores and other feeds. At current metal prices, we expect our manganese silicate product to represent up to 30% of our future potential revenue, so these results are a major milestone in validating TMC’s value proposition even beyond electric vehicles and into supplying the future critical minerals for infrastructure as well.”
To reach the conclusions, SINTEF carried out high-temperature reduction experiments simulating conditions in SiMn production using TMC’s manganese silicate product, together with metallic iron, quartz, coke and CaO additions, and then characterized and compared the resultant products with literature data and industry knowledge. The metallurgists found that the feed mixture reacted at a similar rate to that of traditional manganese sources and that pre-reduction, which contributes heavily to CO2 emissions, could be fully avoided. Results also show that the SiMn was produced within typical specifications and with acceptable levels of impurities.
For the comparative economic valuation, SINTEF employed mass and energy balance calculations on various feed scenarios with unit cost estimates provided by TMC. The evaluation concluded that the production of SiMn with TMC’s product as feed can lower costs, as the product has up to 17.6% higher value than traditional ores, based on their manganese content. Comparisons to conventional Manganese Rich Slag feeds were also conducted with similar outcomes.
In 2021, over half of the 20 million tonnes of manganese ore produced globally went into the production of silicomanganese alloy for the steel industry, which is expected to grow at ~3.5% per annum. The resource requirements of such growth are particularly acute in developing states like India, the world’s second largest steel producer, which is targeting a three-fold expansion in steel manufacturing capacity by 2030. In March, TMC announced that it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) with Epsilon Carbon, a leading developer of graphite materials for lithium-ion battery anodes and India’s only company to be backward-integrated into the steel industry, for the completion of a pre-feasibility study for a commercial-scale deep-sea nodule processing plant in India. The companies are targeting production of more than 750,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) of manganese silicate grading around 42% Mn, as well as more than 30,000 TPA of an intermediate nickel-copper-cobalt matte product used for active cathode material (CAM) for Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) and other nickel-rich battery cathode chemistries.
With a potential production capacity of 2.9 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of manganese silicate, TMC’s NORI-D Nodule Project could feasibly become a major source of manganese feedstock for India and beyond. Since 2020, TMC has been undertaking extensive onshore pilot processing work to convert polymetallic nodules into high-grade critical metals. In September 2021, the Company announced that it had successfully utilised a custom process derived from conventional nickel flowsheets to segregate the base metals contained in nodules into an alloy comprised of high-grade battery metals, as well as the manganese silicate output analysed by the team at SINTEF.
The findings of the SINTEF report and related work by TMC will be presented at the upcoming Conference of Metallurgists being held August 21 to 24 in Montreal, Quebec.
About The Metals Company
TMC the metals company Inc. (The Metals Company) is an explorer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, on a dual mission: (1) supply metals for the clean energy transition with the least possible negative environmental and social impact and (2) accelerate the transition to a circular metal economy. The company through its subsidiaries holds exploration rights to three polymetallic nodule contract areas in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean regulated by the International Seabed Authority and sponsored by the governments of Nauru, Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga. More information is available at www.metals.co.
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Forward Looking Statements:
Certain statements made in this press release are not historical facts but are forward-looking statements for purposes of the safe harbor provisions under The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements generally are accompanied by words such as “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “should,” “would,” “plan,” “predict,” “potential,” “seem,” “seek,” “future,” “outlook” and similar expressions that predict or indicate future events or trends or that are not statements of historical matters. These forward-looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Most of these factors are outside TMC’s control and are difficult to predict. Factors that may cause such differences include, but are not limited to: the potential for TMC’s nodules to be a significant source of manganese silicate or feedstock to the steelmaking industry; TMC’s potential future revenues from the sale of manganese silicate products;TMC’s ability to enter into definitive agreement(s) with Epsilon to construct, operate and supply the potential processing plant in India on terms and conditionals substantially similar to those set forth in the non-binding MoU; the successful completion of the PFR; TMC’s ability to obtain exploitation contracts for its areas in the CCZ; TMC and Epsilon’s ability to secure binding offtake arrangements for the proposed plant’s production on acceptable terms and in sufficient quantities; regulatory uncertainties and the impact of government regulation and political instability on TMC’s resource activities; changes to any of the laws, rules, regulations or policies to which TMC is subject; the impact of extensive and costly environmental requirements on TMC’s operations; environmental liabilities; the impact of polymetallic nodule collection on biodiversity in the CCZ and recovery rates of impacted ecosystems; TMC’s ability to develop minerals in sufficient grade or quantities to justify commercial operations; the lack of development of seafloor polymetallic nodule deposit; uncertainty in the estimates for mineral resource calculations from certain contract areas and for the grade and quality of polymetallic nodule deposits; risks associated with natural hazards; uncertainty with respect to the specialized treatment and processing of polymetallic nodules that TMC may recover; risks associated with collective, development and processing operations, including the successful permitting, completion and operation of the proposed plant in India; fluctuations in transportation costs; testing and manufacturing of equipment; risks associated with TMC’s limited operating history; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; risks associated with TMC’s intellectual property; and other risks and uncertainties, including those under Item 1A “Risk Factors” in TMC’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021, filed by TMC with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on March 25, 2022, and in TMC’s other future filings with the SEC. TMC cautions that the foregoing list of factors is not exclusive. TMC cautions readers not to place undue reliance upon any forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date made. TMC does not undertake or accept any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements to reflect any change in its expectations or any change in events, conditions, or circumstances on which any such statement is based except as required by law.
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