Deep Diving for Metals: Visualizing Ocean Mining
The mining sector has been one of the biggest beneficiaries in the COVID-19 recovery.
Several countries’ recovery packages have ignited demand for commodities like copper, iron ore and lithium. Given that more metals are necessary for electrification and the clean energy transition, many companies are looking at an unexplored market: ocean mining.
Mining of the Deep Sea is still under study but metals are abundant on the seafloor. Reserves are estimated to be worth anywhere from $8 trillion to more than $16 trillion.
This infographic from Prospector provides a visual overview of the seabed mining process.
Down in the Depths
The most prolific area for ocean mining is the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and Mexico. Almost 20 international mining companies have contracts to explore the region which spans over 5,000 kilometers.
Most of the metals are found in potato-sized rock-like polymetallic nodules. Millions of years old, the nodules grow by absorbing metals from the seawater, expanding slowly around the core of shell, bone, or rock.
|Polymetallic sulfide||1,000 to 4,000m||Copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold|
|Polymetallic nodules||3,000 to 6,500m||Nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, ammonium sulfate|
|Cobalt crusts||1,000 to 2,500m||Cobalt, nickel, manganese, rare earth, iron, copper|
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts
It is estimated that there are 21 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules resting on the ocean floor in the CCZ, containing an estimated:
- 6 billion tonnes of manganese
- 226 million tonnes of copper – about 25% of land-based reserves
- 94,000 million tonnes of cobalt – about six times as much as current land-based reserves
- 270 million tonnes of nickel – 100 times the annual global nickel production in 2019
Cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts are found on the sides of underwater mountain ranges and seamounts. Similar to nodules, these crusts form over millions of years as metal compounds in the water. Roughly 57% of them are located in the Pacific.
Polymetallic sulfide deposits formed after seawater seeps into volcanic rocks can be found along tectonic plate boundaries on the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.
How Does Ocean Mining Work?
Extraction of minerals from the seafloor is planned to involve either modified dredging (for nodules), cutting (for massive sulphides and crusts), and transport of the material as a slurry in a riser or basket system to a surface support vessel.
The mineral-bearing material is then processed in a ship (cleaning and dewatering – with the wastewater and sediment being returned to the ocean) and then transferred to a barge for transport to shore where it will be further processed to extract the target metals.
Towards a Greener Future
Growing demand for batteries to power electric cars and store wind and solar energy has driven up the cost of many metals and bolstered the business case for seabed mining.
According to a study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, producing battery metals from nodules could reduce emissions of CO² by 70-75%, cut land use by 94% and eliminate 100% of solid waste.
Here is a look at how ocean and land mining compares:
|Process||Ocean Mining||Land Mining|
|Prospecting time||1-2 years||2-8 years|
|Exploration cost||USD $20 million||USD $10 million|
|Development time||4-6 years from discovery||10+ years from discovery|
|Development cost||USD $1 billion||Up to billions of dollars a year|
|Mining and extraction||Less than USD $1 billion yearly, 20-30+ years||Up to billions of dollars a year, 50+ years|
|Closure and reclamation||Investigative ways to offset displacement of sea life and surfaces||Restore the lands to the extent possible, revegetate, dry tailings ponds|
Source: The Metals Company
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has so far approved 28 exploration contracts in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, covering 1.3 million square kilometers of the ocean floor.
With many companies turning their eyes to the unexplored riches of the ocean, seabed mining could offer a wealth of untapped minerals on the ocean floor.
Plant-based Alternatives: 5 Ways They Benefit the Planet
Conventional meat production is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s CO2 gases. Here we visualize the benefits of plant-based alternatives.
Plant-based Alternatives: 5 Ways They Benefit the Planet
Over the past decade, people have become increasingly interested in plant-based diets. In fact, there has been a 600% increase in people turning vegan in the U.S. since 2014.
Because of this, the plant-based foods market could make up roughly 7.7% of the global protein market by 2030, with a value of over $162 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2020.
Although initially promoted for their gambit of health benefits, recent studies have shown that switching to a plant-based diet has a list of environmental benefits too.
The following infographic by Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) (“GOAT”) explores the environmental impacts of conventional meat production and how plant-based alternatives can lessen this impact and be a viable dietary solution for the future.
Environmental Benefits of Plant-based Alternatives
Increased population growth has caused meat production to increase exponentially. The livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to urgent environmental problems. Conventional meat production is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
Water, land, and ocean conservation have become a major concern for livestock breeding and meat production. It also causes a loss of soil nutrients, leaving land unusable in the future.
Here are five ways in which the production of plant-based alternatives benefit the environment:
- Climate Change: The production of plant-based meats causes very low greenhouse gas emissions and can in fact reduce emissions caused by conventional meat production by 70%.
- Land Conservation: Switching to a plant-based diet could also reduce global agricultural land use from 4 to 1 billion hectares.
- Water Conservation: A plant-based diet can reduce water consumption by up to 50%, saving 14 trillion gallons of water annually.
- Cleaner Water: Creating plant-based alternatives does not require excessive spraying of chemicals and pesticides, reducing aquatic nutrient pollution.
- Ocean Conservation: Consumption of plant-based imitation fish can stop the practice of overfishing that has caused oceanic dead zones across the world.
Plant-based alternatives offer a solution to these problems. They produce minimal greenhouse gases and require a fraction of the cropland and water needed for conventional meat production.
Health Benefits of Consuming Plant-based Alternatives
Plant-based diets are considered to be naturally nutritious and healthy. For years, registered dietitians and food scientists have touted the perks of eating plants and cutting back on meat.
Here are some amazing benefits of choosing a plant-based diet:
Lower Your Blood Pressure
Several studies have shown that sticking with a plant-based diet can reduce blood pressure, reducing your risk of further health complications. A recent study also found that vegetarians had a 34% lower risk of developing hypertension than those who consume meat.
Prevent Type-2 Diabetes
Our diet and diseases like type 2 diabetes have had a long-standing link. Plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with a substantially lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes by over 30%.
Provide Healthy Body BMI
Studies have shown that the mean BMI for vegans was 23.6, while for nonvegetarians, it was 28.8, which qualifies as overweight. The various fibers and antioxidants in plant-based foods reduce fatty lipids in the body and promote a healthy BMI.
Decrease Your Risk of Cancer
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR ), the best way to source cancer-protective nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, is to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and some animal foods.
Improve Brain Capacity
There is veritable proof that a plant-based diet may improve the cognitive functions of your body. In some rare cases, it is linked to enhancing impairments in Alzheimer’s patients and reducing the risk of dementia.
Most Popular Plant-based Alternatives
There are a variety of plant-based alternatives that are available for consumption in the market today. Meat and milk alternatives are the most popular types of current plant-based alternatives available. Many popular fast-food chains have now adopted using plant-based meats in their menus.
Similarly, in order to combat the extreme exploitation of fisheries worldwide, efforts are being made to create plant-based seafood alternatives for consumption.
Through brands like Sophie’s Kitchen, Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) gives people the opportunity to invest in companies that offer healthy and environmentally conscious plant-based alternatives for consumption.
Go to billygoatbrands.com to learn more about investing in a plant-based future today.
Visualized: The Circular Economy 101
How does a circular economy work? In this infographic, we show the benefits of a circular economy, and the key factors driving its growth.
Visualized: The Circular Economy 101
The principles of a circular economy trace back as far as 3,000 years.
Archeological evidence shows that Romans recycled trash following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Roughly 200 years later, people recycled glass during the Byzantine Empire. Fast-forward to today and circular economy strategies are projected to generate trillions in economic output by 2030.
But how does the circular economy work? This infographic from MSCI provides a guide to circular economies—from circular business models to circular technologies.
No Time to Waste
First, let’s start at the root of the problem, our current consumption trends:
- Raw Materials: Global extraction is projected to double by 2060.
- Textiles: 85% of clothing and textiles are discarded.
- Waste: Global waste is projected to rise 70% by 2050.
- Water: 80% of global wastewater is untreated or reused before returning back to the ecosystem.
To change consumption patterns and reduce waste, consumer behaviors, business models, and policies will need to change. But the big question is how?
To answer this problem, the concept of a circular economy is gaining traction.
What Is a Circular Economy?
A circular economy is centered on the idea of resources being kept as long as possible within the economic system, where materials that have undergone an entire lifecycle, from production to end stage, are returned to the economic system as an input.
Above all else, a circular economy is based on sustainable life cycles.
Circular Economy Growth
In 2019, BlackRock launched an inaugural Circular Economy fund. Since then, it has attracted $2.1 billion in investment. A number of the world’s largest asset managers have followed suit.
Policy-driven agendas are also focused on the circular economy shift:
- Paris Climate Agreement
- UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12, 11, 9, 13)
- European Green Deal Circular Economy Action Plan
- 2019 African Durban Declaration
- China’s 5-Year Circular Economy Plan
- Circular economy strategies across Latin American countries
Given the steep cost of linear economic models, governments are beginning to pay attention to the merits of a circular economy.
The Upside of a Circular Economy
Circular economy principles aligned with sustainability offer the following advantages:
- Reducing GHG emissions: 9.3 billion tonnes of CO₂e could be prevented by 2050 if circular economy strategies are applied across the steel, aluminum, cement, food, and plastic sectors.
- Preserving long-term biodiversity: ~50% decrease in harmful effects on farm-level biodiversity through applying circular strategies.
- Improving ocean health & water quality: 80% reduction in plastics entering the ocean globally by using reclamation, recycling, and reduction strategies, among others.
- Economic growth & job creation: $4.5 trillion global economic opportunity by 2030 through spurring innovation in waste reduction.
Importantly, circular strategies, technologies, and transition companies are looking beyond traditional economic models.
5 Business Models in a Circular Economy
From alternative energy to bio-based and recyclable materials, the most effective circular business models are ones that create obvious value.
Let’s consider five circular economy business models and where they can be applied in the supply chain. Additionally, some of the models can be adapted to any part of the supply chain.
|Business Model||Supply Chain Example|
|1. Circular supplies/Circular design||Product design/R&D
Procurement/raw materials acquisition
|2. Resource recovery|
(Recycle, Waste as a resource)
Material & product manufacturing
|3. Product life extension |
(Remanufacture, Resell, Upgrade)
Sales & marketing
|4. Share||Product use
Material & product manufacturing
|5. Product as a service||Logistics
Today, circular models present opportunities in fashion, food systems, mining and metals, among others.
How are Circular Economy Indexes Created?
A circular economy theme is built on two key dimensions:
1. Smarter technologies: Providing circular technologies
- Single-use plastics alternatives
- Digital technologies that replace resource-intensive products
2. Resource efficient processes: Maximizing materials and minimizing impacts (e.g. emissions)
- Improved package materials
- Efficient processes that reduce land degradation and promote diversity
Then, MSCI identifies areas of innovation that support a circular model. Consider the following circular technologies, which are produced by companies that contribute to a circular economy theme “end-state” through their products and services.
|7 Circular Technologies||Example|
|1. Renewables & energy efficiency||Replacing oil-based plastic with compostable materials
|2. Sharing economy||Peer-to-peer accommodation
|3. Future mobility||Electric vehicles
|4. Internet economy||Online markets|
|5. Water sustainability||Wastewater treatment systems|
|6. Plastic sustainability||Companies using only one type of polymer for packaging|
It also looks at circular transitions, which are companies that enable the shift to a circular economy through their management of related issues.
|3 Circular Transitions||Example|
|1. Natural resources management||Deforestation
|2. Water resources management||Smart metering devices|
|3. Plastic transition||Biodegradable plastics|
As a result MSCI has created a range of Circular Economy related indexes:
- Natural Resources Stewardship
- Sustainable Water Transition
- Plastics Transition
- Renewables & Energy Efficiency
- Sharing Economy
It’s worth noting that what is measurable today will likely only expand, considering the evolving regulatory frameworks and thinking around a circular economy,
The Value of a Circular Economy
Through looking at circular economy innovation, we yield three important insights:
- Competitive earnings
- New economic models
- Sustainable solutions
For a growing number of investors, companies, and researchers, a circular economy provides a wide scope of opportunities ranging from single-use plastics alternatives to water sustainability.
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