TMC Enters into MOU with PAMCO to evaluate the processing of polymetallic nodules into battery metal feedstocks
by CM staff
Under the MOU, PAMCO will undertake studies to estimate the cost of processing polymetallic nodules through existing facilities.
NEW YORK — The Metals Company (TMC) has entered into a non-binding MOU with Pacific Metals Co Ltd (PAMCO) of Japan, to evaluate the toll treatment of an initial quantity of 1.3 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules per year at PAMCO’s Hachinohe smelting facility starting in 2025, consistent with the commencement of TMC’s planned first commercial production by end of 2024.
The toll treatment is intended to take place on a dedicated rotary kiln-electric arc furnace (RKEF) processing line and produce two products: nickel-copper-cobalt alloy — an intermediate product used as feedstock to produce Li-ion battery cathodes — and a manganese silicate product used to make silico-manganese alloy, a critical input into steel manufacturing.
PAMCO’s Hachinohe facility is located on the coast in northern Japan and is equipped with port and processing infrastructure required to receive and process polymetallic nodules and to ship products to customers.
Under the MOU, PAMCO will undertake studies to estimate the cost of processing polymetallic nodules through existing facilities and identify any additional equipment requirements, currently expected to be minimal.
“We look forward to working with TMC to enhance the value of the Hachinohe facility by processing a higher value material with a lower environmental impact,” said Masayuki Aoyama, PAMCO President. “We are excited by the prospect of being the first commercial processor of polymetallic nodules and see the opportunity to emerge as supplier of Li–ion battery metals.”
This work will inform expected nodule through-put, process operating conditions and product specifications for PAMCO’s dedicated production line. PAMCO has received a 22-tonne sample of polymetallic nodules for use in the evaluations.
In parallel, PAMCO is studying the addition of a facility to process the intermediate alloy to nickel-copper-cobalt matte, which is an upgraded intermediate battery supply chain feedstock. It is anticipated that the additional facility would be constructed once commercial processing of polymetallic nodules to alloy has been demonstrated. The parties are working towards a binding MOU for toll-processing in 2023 with definitive agreements to follow.
“We are excited about the prospect of working closely with PAMCO who have been smelting nickel laterite ores at their Hachinohe facility since 1965 and have considerable experience in adapting to various land-based feedstocks from the Pacific,” said Gerard Barron, CEO & Chairman of The Metals Company. “Technically, the Hachinohe plant appears well-suited to deploy the near-zero solid waste flowsheet we developed for processing nodules with little modification. Strategically, we are aligned with PAMCO’s goal to contribute materials to a sustainable and recycling-oriented society. We look forward to working with PAMCO on the upcoming study program, finalizing the agreements and ultimately processing nodules to provide the metals required for the energy transition.”