TMC has signed a non-binding MoU with Epsilon Carbon to complete a pre-feasibility study for a commercial-scale deep-sea nodule processing plant in India.
The Metals Company Inc. (TMC) has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Epsilon Carbon Pvt. Ltd. to complete a pre-feasibility study for a commercial-scale deep-sea nodule processing plant in India with targeted production capacity of more than 30,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) of an intermediate nickel-copper-cobalt matte product used for active cathode material (CAM) for nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and other nickel-rich cathode chemistries for lithium-ion batteries and more than 750,000 TPA of manganese silicate by-product expected to be used in manganese alloy production for the steel industry (Project Zero Plant).
TMC and Epsilon Carbon envision a long-term partnership: TMC, through its subsidiaries, intends to supply polymetallic nodules and onshore processing expertise; Epsilon Carbon intends to finance, engineer, permit, build and operate the Project Zero Plant. TMC has shared with Epsilon Carbon the near-zero solid waste processing flowsheet developed together with Canadian technology and engineering firms between 2018 and 2021 and technical results from a pilot plant program completed in 2021 at FLSmidth’s facilities in Whitehall, PA, USA, and at eXpert Processing Solutions’ (XPS) facilities in Sudbury, ON, Canada.
Epsilon Carbon intends to deliver a pre-feasibility report (PFR) for a plant in India powered by renewables and with the targeted processing capacity of 1.3 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of wet nodules and production start in time to receive nodules collected from NORI-D area starting around Q4 2024, provided, that TMC’s subsidiary NORI secures an exploitation contract from the International Seabed Authority. It is anticipated that TMC and Epsilon Carbon will enter a binding Heads of Terms for construction and operations of Project Zero Plant by September 30, 2022.
TMC and Epsilon Carbon have both agreed not to enter into any binding agreements with third parties for the construction and operation of a processing plant for polymetallic nodules through the earlier of TMC and Epsilon Carbon entering into binding Heads of Terms contemplated in the MoU or March 31, 2023.
“Over the last three years, we have engaged with many parties and visited plants around the world in search of the right onshore partners. In Epsilon Carbon, we have found a rare mix: a proven operational execution track record in anode materials, a 21st century approach to industrial development grounded in making use of waste products, deep care about safety, environmental and social impacts, and an entrepreneurial ambition to develop cathode precursor materials. We could not be more excited about partnering with the Epsilon Carbon team and the prospect of locating our first plant in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to 20% of the world’s population with robust development-led demand for the raw materials that can be derived from polymetallic nodules. Prime Minister Modi’s allocation last year of $600 million for India’s ‘Deep Ocean Mission and the development of a polymetallic nodule collection system shows the country’s commitment to this new, abundant, secure, lower-cost and lower-ESG-impact potential source of critical metals,” said Gerard Barron, Chairman and CEO of TMC.
Epsilon Carbon founder Vikram Handa added, “Having developed technology to tap an unconventional source of graphite — a waste stream from steel manufacturing — we are rapidly growing our anode materials’ business in India and establishing a new plant in Finland. Our strategy is to expand into cathode materials by 2024. TMC’s polymetallic nodule resource struck us as a game-changing opportunity to tap another unconventional resource with several intrinsic properties that potentially allow us to develop a cathode precursor materials business with a much lower environmental and social impact. We have started with a PFR for a relatively small-scale plant but we believe that the scale of TMC’s resource has the potential to turn India into a significant supplier of critical minerals for battery and steel industries.”