The Metals Company has tens of millions of dollars in the bank and partnerships with major maritime companies. The _Hidden Gem_’s foray last October marked the first time since the 1970s that any company had successfully trialed a complete system for harvesting nodules.
The main thing holding the company back is international law, which currently forbids deep-ocean mining. That may be about to change, however. Last year, the Metals Company teamed up with the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru to trigger an obscure process that could let them bypass the international prohibition and get a license to start full-scale operations as early as July 2024.
That prospect has sparked an outraged backlash. Environmental groups, scientists, and even some corporations in the market for battery metals fear the potential havoc of seabed mining. The oceans provide much of the world’s biodiversity, a significant chunk of humanity’s food, and the planet’s biggest carbon sink. No one knows how such an unprecedented incursion would affect the many life-forms that live in the abyssal depths, the marine life farther up the water column, or the ocean itself.