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Table of Contents

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

FORM 10-K

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023

or

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                 to

Commission file number: 001-39281

TMC THE METALS COMPANY INC.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

British Columbia, Canada

Not Applicable

(State or other jurisdiction
of incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

595 Howe Street, 10th Floor
Vancouver, British Columbia

V6C 2T5

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

(574) 252-9333

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Exchange Act:

Title of each class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Shares, without par value

TMC

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

Redeemable warrants, each whole warrant exercisable for one Common Share, each at an exercise price of $11.50 per share

TMCWW

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes   No

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act. Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes   No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes    No

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

Large accelerated filer

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.   

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  

If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.  

Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).    Yes   No

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant (without admitting that any person whose shares are not included in such calculation is an affiliate) computed by reference to the price at which the common shares were last sold as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter was $274,979,313.

As of March 22, 2024, the registrant had 318,249,878 common shares outstanding.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the registrant’s proxy statement in connection with the registrant’s annual meeting of shareholders, scheduled to be held on May 30, 2024, are incorporated by reference in Part III of this report. Except as expressly incorporated by reference, such proxy statement shall not be deemed to be part of this report.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Page

PART I

4

Item 1.

Business

4

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

45

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

73

Item 1C.

Cybersecurity

73

Item 2.

Properties

75

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

102

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

103

PART II

104

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

104

Item 6.

[Reserved]

104

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

104

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

121

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

122

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

162

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

162

Item 9B.

Other Information

163

Item 9C.

Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections

164

PART III

164

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

164

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

164

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

164

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

164

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

165

PART IV

166

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

166

Item 16.

Form 10-K Summary

170

Signatures

171

1

Table of Contents

In this Annual Report on form 10-K (“Annual Report”), the terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “Company” and “TMC” mean TMC the metals company Inc. (formerly Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp.) and our subsidiaries. On September 9, 2021 (the “Closing Date”), Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp. (“SOAC” and after the Business Combination described herein, the “Company”) consummated a business combination (the “Business Combination”) pursuant to the terms of the business combination agreement dated as of March 4, 2021 (the “Business Combination Agreement”) by and among SOAC, 1291924 B.C. Unlimited Liability Company, an unlimited liability company existing under the laws of British Columbia, Canada (“NewCo Sub”), and DeepGreen Metals Inc., a company existing under the laws of British Columbia, Canada (“DeepGreen”) under which SOAC acquired DeepGreen and its business. In connection with the Business Combination, SOAC changed its name to “TMC the metals company Inc.” (“TMC”). The combined company’s common shares and warrants to purchase common shares commenced trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (“Nasdaq”) on September 10, 2021, under the symbols “TMC” and “TMCWW,” respectively.

As used in this Annual Report, “Mtpa” refers to millions of tonnes per year, “ktpa” refers to thousands of tonnes per year, “dmtu” refers to dry metric tonne unit, TWh” refers to trillion-watt hours, “CO2e” refers to metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and “w/w” refers to weight for weight.

CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), that relate to future events, our future operations or financial performance, or our plans, strategies and prospects. These statements are based on the beliefs and assumptions of our management team. Although we believe that our plans, intentions and expectations reflected in or suggested by these forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot assure that we will achieve or realize these plans, intentions or expectations. Forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Generally, statements that are not historical facts, including statements concerning possible or assumed future actions, business strategies, events or performance, are forward-looking statements. These statements may be preceded by, followed by or include the words “believes,” “estimates,” “expects,” “projects,” “forecasts,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “seeks,” “plans,” “scheduled,” “anticipates” or “intends” or the negative of these terms, or other comparable terminology intended to identify statements about the future, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. The forward-looking statements are based on projections prepared by, and are the responsibility of, the Company’s management. Forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report include, but are not limited to, statements about:

the commercial and technical feasibility of seafloor polymetallic nodule collection and processing;
our and our partners’ development and operational plans, including with respect to the planned uses of polymetallic nodules, where and how nodules will be obtained and processed, the expected environmental, social and governance impacts thereof and our plans to assess these impacts and the timing and scope of these plans, including the timing and expectations with respect to our receipt of exploitation contracts and our commercialization plans;
the supply and demand for battery metals and battery cathode feedstocks, copper cathode and manganese ores;
the future prices of battery metals and battery cathode feedstocks, copper cathode and manganese ores;
the timing and content of International Seabed Authority’s (“ISA”) final exploitation regulations that will create the legal and technical framework for exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean (“CCZ”);
government regulation of mineral extraction from the deep seafloor and changes in mining laws and regulations;
technical, operational, environmental, social and governance risks of developing and deploying equipment to collect and ship polymetallic nodules at sea, and to process such nodules on land;
the sources and timing of potential revenue as well as the timing and amount of estimated future production, costs of production, other expenses, capital expenditures and requirements for additional capital;

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cash flow provided by operating activities;
the expected activities of our partners under our key strategic relationships;
the sufficiency of our cash on hand to meet our working capital and capital expenditure requirements, the need for additional financing and our ability to continue as a going concern;
our ability to raise financing in the future, the nature of any such financing and our plans with respect thereto;
any litigation to which we are a party;
claims and limitations on insurance coverage;
our plans to mitigate our material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting;
geological, metallurgical and geotechnical studies and opinions;
mineral resource estimates, and our ability to define and declare reserve estimates;
our status as an emerging growth company, non-reporting Canadian issuer and passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”);
the impact of pandemics on our business; and
our financial performance.

These forward-looking statements are based on information available as of the date of this Annual Report, and current expectations, forecasts and assumptions, and involve a number of judgments, risks and uncertainties. Important factors could cause actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those indicated or implied by forward-looking statements such as those described under the caption “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of Part I of this Annual Report and in other filings that we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The risks described under the heading “Risk Factors” are not exhaustive. New risk factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible to predict all such risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all such risk factors on our business or the extent to which any factor or combination of factors may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance. You should not put undue reliance on these statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. All forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the foregoing cautionary statements. We undertake no obligations to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

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PART I

Item 1.BUSINESS

Overview

We are a deep-sea minerals exploration company focused on the collection, processing and refining of polymetallic nodules found on the seafloor in international waters of the Clarion Clipperton Zone (“CCZ”), about 1,300 nautical miles (1,500 miles or 2,400 kilometers) south-west of San Diego, California. The CCZ is a geological submarine fracture zone of abyssal plains and other formations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, with a length of around 7,240 kilometers (4,500 miles) that spans approximately 4,500,000 square kilometers (1,700,000 square miles). Polymetallic nodules are discrete rocks that sit unattached to the seafloor, occur in significant quantities in the CCZ and have high concentrations of nickel, manganese, cobalt and copper in a single rock.

These four metals contained in the polymetallic nodules are critical for the transition to low carbon energy. Our resource definition work to date shows that nodules in our contract areas represent the world’s largest estimated undeveloped source of critical battery metals. If we are able to collect polymetallic nodules from the seafloor on a commercial scale, we plan to use such nodules to produce three types of metal products: (i) feedstock for battery cathode precursors (nickel and cobalt sulfates, or intermediary nickel-copper-cobalt matte, or nickel-copper-cobalt alloy) for electric vehicles (“EV”) and renewable energy storage markets, (ii) copper cathode for EV wiring, energy transmission and other applications, and (iii) manganese silicate for manganese alloy production required for steel production. Our mission is to build a carefully managed, shared stock of metal (a “metal commons”) that can be used, recovered and reused for generations to come. Significant quantities of newly mined metal are required because existing metal stocks are insufficient to meet rapidly rising demand.

Exploration and exploitation of seabed minerals in international waters is regulated by the International Seabed Authority (“ISA”), an intergovernmental organization established pursuant to the 1994 Agreement Relating to the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). The ISA grants contracts to sovereign states or to private contractors who are sponsored by a sovereign state. The ISA requires that a contractor obtain and maintain sponsorship by a host nation that is a member of the ISA and signatory to UNCLOS, and that such nation maintains effective supervision and regulatory control over such sponsored contractor. The ISA has issued a total of 19 polymetallic nodule exploration contracts covering approximately 1.28 million square kilometers, or 0.4% of the global seafloor, 17 of which are in the CCZ. We hold exclusive exploration and commercial rights to three of the 17 polymetallic nodule contract areas in the CCZ through our subsidiaries Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (“NORI”) and Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (“TOML”), sponsored by the Republic of Nauru (“Nauru”) and the Kingdom of Tonga (“Tonga”), respectively, and exclusive commercial rights through our wholly-owned subsidiary, DeepGreen Engineering Pte. Ltd.’s (“DGE”), arrangement with Marawa Research and Exploration Limited (“Marawa”), a company owned and sponsored by the Republic of Kiribati (“Kiribati”).

We are still in the exploration phase and have not yet obtained any exploitation contracts from the ISA to commence commercial scale polymetallic nodule collection in the CCZ.  Additionally, we do not have the applicable environmental and/or other permits required to build and operate commercial-scale polymetallic nodule processing and refining plants on land.

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Polymetallic Nodules

Deep-sea polymetallic nodules form on and just below the sediment-covered seafloor of the abyssal plains. These nodules contain significant amounts of metals, and their unique characteristic compared to terrestrial deposits is the presence of the four critical metals, nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese, in one deposit.

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Source: TMC inaugural Impact Report 2021, filed May 2022

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Additionally, polymetallic nodules in the CCZ possess the following characteristics:

Characteristic

What it means

Far removed from human communities 

No need for social displacement

No vegetation or other obstructions covering access to nodules

No need to remove overburden, no rock cutting or blasting

Unbound to the seafloor, 90% of nodule mass in the top 5 cm of seafloor

No need for destructive rock cutting and excavation

High grades of four critical metals in a single ore

Less mass to process compared to land ores

Low head-grade variability 

Potentially easy to process

2-10 cm diameter 

Potentially easy to handle

Microporous

Potentially easy to smelt

Very low concentrations of certain hazardous elements like arsenic, antimony and mercury

Potential to productize almost 100% of nodule mass and design a metallurgical flowsheet that generates no tailings and leaves almost no solid waste streams behind

The above characteristics of polymetallic nodules may provide an opportunity to compress lifecycle environmental and social impacts of producing critical metals as compared to land ores. In order to extract nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese from land ores, at least three different types of ores would need to be excavated. Mine development often involves social displacement and impacts on Indigenous people as well as deforestation, destruction of carbon sinks and biodiversity loss. In addition, several times more mass would need to be processed, often requiring significant amounts of local water resources; mining and processing tailings which can be toxic and need to be managed indefinitely in tailings dams, using dry-stacking or a practice known as deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP). Furthermore, metal production from land ores can release several toxic streams into the surrounding environment which can negatively impact the health of local communities and ecosystems. We believe using nodules to produce critical metals can help reduce several of these impacts associated with mining land ores.  If our nodules are to be processed and refined in the United States (“U.S.”), we can also compress the current supply chain that some materials need to travel before reaching the U.S. of 50,000 miles down to 1,500 miles, while reducing dependency on China which dominates refining for battery metals such as nickel, cobalt and manganese.

Market Opportunity

A 2021 study by the International Energy Agency shows that the production of energy transition minerals could increase by 600% by 2040 to meet the growing demand for low-carbon energy technologies required to keep global warming at 1.5°C. Given the wide range of environmental and social impacts associated with conventional land-based mining, we believe it is important to ensure that these large amounts of critical metals are sourced with the lowest environmental, social, and economic impacts possible. As the global supply of high-grade ore remains limited and metal demand increases, we can expect a larger environmental and social footprint, potential supply shortages and volatility in metal prices should land-based ores remain the only viable source of critical metals.

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Industries which represent an end-use segment that may require all four critical metals contained in nodules (e.g. EVs) are of particular interest to us and represent potential market opportunities. Nodules contain metals that can be employed as: (i) feedstock for battery cathode precursors (nickel, cobalt and manganese sulfates) for EV and renewable energy storage markets, (ii) copper cathode for EV wiring, energy transmission and other applications, and (iii) manganese silicate for manganese alloy production required for steel production. See Section – Competitive Strengths. While end-uses driven by the energy transition represent a small fraction of the total use of the four metals contained in polymetallic nodules today, we believe that the relative use of these four metals by EV’s and other energy transition is set to increase significantly over the next decades.

The below charts published by the International Energy Agency show increasing global demand by end-use application for nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese, under the scenario that net zero emissions is achieved by 2050.  The International Energy Agency provides global demand projections for 37 critical minerals needed for clean energy transitions across various target and technology scenarios.

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Source: IEA Critical Minerals Market Review 2023

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Battery Metals and EV Market Opportunity Global

We believe the world is at the very beginning of a multi-decade electrification of road transportation. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), at the end of 2023, the global fleet of four-wheeled vehicles including cars, vans, trucks, and buses numbered 1.57 billion (up 2.1% from 2022) and only 41 million passenger cars, or less than 3%, were electric. However, the new sales of internal combustion cars have decreased since 2017 as sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrids vehicles have increased and accounted for over 15% of global passenger vehicle sales in 2023. By 2030, automakers have collectively committed to sell 47 million EVs a year, a commitment that represents more than tripling of current sales levels.

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The electrification of global road transportation is underpinned by the rapid expansion of the battery manufacturing capacity, which started accelerating since 2020 and is expected to reach 8TWh by 2040.

Battery chemistries that require metals contained in CCZ polymetallic nodules, nickel, cobalt and manganese, deliver high energy densities and are typically deployed in vehicles requiring long range (e.g., luxury and upmarket passenger cars) and power (trucks). In 2023, these battery chemistries accounted for 58% of overall battery manufacturing, which represented only a small portion of the overall use of nickel (~12% of nickel demand) and manganese (<1% of manganese demand). In addition, the use of batteries with different chemistries has changed over time, and we expect demand for the four metals found in polymetallic nodules to increase as the demand for batteries with certain chemistries increases.

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We believe there will be continued growth in EV demand, with many countries committing to phasing out cars that burn fossil fuels and many original equipment manufacturers (“OEMs”) devoting significant resources to the electrification of their vehicle offerings. In 2023, the number of signatories to the Zero Emission Vehicle declaration announced at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) increased to 228; the declaration is aimed at accelerating the transition to zero emission vehicles with a goal to reach 100% new EV car and van sales by 2040, and by 2035 in leading markets. In the U.S., 23 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have set 100% decarbonized energy goals by 2050 or sooner, with the Biden administration seeking to make half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. zero-emissions vehicles by 2030. We believe the transition to low carbon energy and EVs will test the limits of the current supply of certain metals, as EVs require several times more of these metals (such as nickel, cobalt and copper) than cars with internal combustion engines.  Following price surges in 2022 in anticipation of a period of increased demand, an oversupply of nickel largely produced in

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Indonesia has driven down prices of the metals. These surpluses, however, could be temporary and we believe potential shortages in nickel and cobalt supply could return in the 2027/2028 timeframe, subject to developments in Indonesia and responses by the U.S. and the European Union where regulators could impose measures to differentiate between sources of metal based on the environmental and social impacts of these sources. Since prices of these metals have declined, investments by Western countries have declined and some of these interests have stopped mining/production of these metals altogether.  It should be noted that current metal prices as of the date of this report are similar to projections used in the initial assessment from March 2021 for the NORI Area D project.

Battery Metals and EV Market Opportunity in the U.S.

Although the total fleet of four-wheeled vehicles in the U.S. (267 million or 17% of global) is roughly comparable in size to that of China (361 million or 23% of global), the U.S. EV fleet is three times smaller in relative terms than that of China (5.1 million EVs or 2% of national fleet vs. 22 million EVs in China or 6% of national fleet).

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Based on 2023 data, the U.S. is the second largest consumer of battery nickel based on EV end-use. We expect this use to grow significantly in the coming years.

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In August 2021, the U.S. government announced a target of 50% EV sales by 2030 and in August of 2022, the U.S. Congress enacted the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (“IRA”) which included incentivizing EV adoption and domestic production of clean vehicle

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critical mineral and battery components. These announcements resulted in industry commitments to build battery cell manufacturing gigafactories, which would represent approximately 1.3TWh of aggregate capacity across North America, according to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence (“Benchmark”).  While the IRA has helped attract over US$100 billion in EV value chain investments, less than 1.3% of the total is being invested in the sourcing of raw materials.

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In June 2021, the Biden administration’s 100-Day Review of Critical Minerals Supply Chains estimated that fully electrifying U.S. car sales would require 1,273ktpa of Class 1 nickel, 160ktpa of cobalt and 148ktpa of manganese, compared with existing U.S. primary production of 18ktpa of nickel, 0.6ktpa of cobalt, and zero primary production of manganese. Across our NORI and TOML contract areas, we have estimated resources of 15.9Mt of nickel, 2.2Mt of cobalt and 355Mt of manganese plus 13.3Mt of copper, with the potential to take the U.S. from zero or de minimis production of those metals, which comprise the metals used in the most prominent battery cathode (NMC) in 2023 to near self-sufficiency or potentially a net export position in each.  In September 2023, nine U.S. House of Representatives members wrote to the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, noting that the United States has “an opportunity to evaluate domestic processing and refining of seafloor resources from contracts held by allied parties in international waters,” and urging the Department of Defense to “assess polymetallic nodules as a viable resource to secure critical minerals and close national security vulnerabilities.” In December 2023, 31 U.S. House of Representatives members wrote to the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, emphasizing “the importance of evaluating and planning for seabed mining as a new vector of competition with China for resource superiority and security.” Additional letters from five members of the Texas House delegation as well as Senator Cornyn were written to the Department of Defense in support of our U.S. subsidiary DeepGreen Resources’ application to the Defense Production Act Title III program for support with a site-specific feasibility study for its planned full-scale processing plant.

Also in December of 2023, the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law for fiscal year 2024 including a provision on ‘Critical and Strategic Minerals and Materials Sourcing from Seafloor Resources.’ In this provision, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) directed the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy to, by March 2024, submit a report to the HASC assessing the processing of seabed resources of polymetallic nodules domestically. Although not yet submitted, the report shall include, at a minimum, the following: (1) a review of current resources and controlling parties in securing seabed resources of polymetallic nodules; (2) an assessment of current domestic deep-sea mining and material processing capabilities; and (3) a roadmap recommending how the U.S. can have the ability to source and/or process critical minerals in innovative arenas, such as deep-sea mining, to decrease reliance on sources from foreign adversaries and bolster domestic competencies. We believe the continued focus by the U.S. government may increase our opportunities to develop operations in the U.S.

Environmental Market Opportunity

All nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese going into EVs today are produced from land-based ores or recycled metal stock. Existing metal stocks available for recycling are insufficient to meet current demand. Even with high end-of-life product recycling rates, most of the new demand over the coming decades will have to be met by new mining.  We believe the land mining sector is fundamentally challenged: ore grades are falling, production is moving to some of the more biodiverse and conflict-laden regions in the world (such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Philippines and South Africa), accessing ore bodies often requires a complete removal of ecosystems situated on and above such orebodies, and removing, breaking or tunneling through significant tonnage of waste rock. Toxic levels of heavy elements often found in land orebodies typically need to be removed, stored, and maintained indefinitely; a real challenge on seismically active and wet tropical islands in countries like Indonesia that accounts for most of the growth in nickel supply.

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As a result of a vigorous campaign by several non-governmental organizations, some participants in the EV supply chain have called for a general moratorium on all forms of deep seabed mining until there is more knowledge about marine impacts of nodule collection operations. While our Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for offshore nodule collection segment of the NORI Area D Nodule Project is still ongoing, based on already completed research into lifecycle impacts of battery metal production specifically from deep-sea polymetallic nodules, we identified how nodules can potentially provide an opportunity to significantly compress most lifecycle environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts associated with conventional metal production from land-based ores.

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To quantify environmental footprints of metal production from nodules as compared to conventional land ores, we commissioned several lifecycle assessments (“LCAs”) looking at the cradle-to-gate impacts of producing nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese products from polymetallic nodules and how it compares to land-based routes. An LCA white paper examining a comprehensive set of impacts was commissioned by us and co-authored by certain of our executive officers in 2018 and reviewed by subject matter specialists and published on our website in April 2020; an LCA research paper focusing on climate change impacts was peer-reviewed and published in the Elsevier Journal of Cleaner Production in December 2020, an LCA research paper focusing on solid waste streams was peer-reviewed and published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology in January 2022 and an independent LCA compliant with the International Organization for Standardization Standard 14040 on our NORI Area D project was conducted by Benchmark and released in March 2023. Based on these LCA assessments that we commissioned, we believe that we are positioned to become one of the lowest ESG footprint metal companies in the industry. The March 2023 LCA by Benchmark shows that the NORI Area D project model performed better in each impact category analyzed than all the land-based processing routes chosen for comparison, except for the global warming potential (“GWP”) and water consumption of producing cobalt sulfate, in which one land-based route performed better. While most of these reductions are attributable to the unique characteristics of the polymetallic nodule resource as described above, the elimination of solid processing waste streams onshore is due to our investment in a near-zero-waste flowsheet design and part of the low carbon emissions are due to our commitment to locate onshore processing facilities in places with access to low carbon power.

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Benchmark modeled the land-based processing routes with background ecoinvent data and foreground data from two expert chemical engineers in the nickel and cobalt industry. The NORI Area D Project data is based on the NORI Technical Report Summary, dated March 2021, which included an initial assessment and an economic analysis of NORI Area D prepared in accordance with the SEC’s Modernization of Property Disclosures for Mining Registrants set forth in subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K (the “SEC Mining Rules”). The NORI Technical Report Summary is filed as Exhibit 96.1 to this Annual Report.

As part of the ESIA conducted by NORI in partnership with world leading deep-sea research institutions and contractors, we are currently assessing the impacts of the NORI Area D Project on marine biodiversity and ecosystem function. The CCZ abyssal plains are one of the most common and least populated habitats on the planet, akin to deserts on land. The CCZ abyssal seafloor is plant-free, food-poor and dominated by bacterial life forms. It has been studied extensively since the 1960s with over 150,000 papers published on polymetallic nodules in general and over 40,000 on CCZ nodules in particular.

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The largest driver of uncertainty in assessing the potential future impact of nodule collection operations on marine biodiversity is our ability to measure biodiversity itself. Unlike biodiversity, biomass, measured as carbon contained in live organisms per m2 of habitat, is easier to measure and compare. Based on available data we have reviewed, we believe that the CCZ is one of lowest biomass places on the planet. Metal production from nodules will reduce biomass at risk by over 90% compared to producing the same amount of metals from conventional land ores.

In contrast, land-based mining for nickel and cobalt occurs in diverse countries as identified by Benchmark in a study commissioned by us and published in November 2023. In both Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the “DRC”), which are the world’s largest producers of nickel and cobalt respectively, the extraction of metal ores through open pit mines requires the complete removal of overlying ecosystems and contained carbon sinks, in turn eliminating the carbon sequestration. The study found that 1 kilogram of nickel mined from saprolite and limonite ore in Sulawesi, Indonesia removes forests containing carbon stock equivalent to 7.0 and 9.4 kilograms of CO2e, and 3.6 kilograms of CO2e in the case of cobalt mined in Katanga, DRC. Due to the resulting vegetation change, mining activities cause carbon sequestration services loss of 4.8 grams and 6.5 grams of CO2e respectively for nickel, and 9.3 grams of CO2e for cobalt per year.

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As a precautionary environmental management and protection measure, the ISA has already set aside 43% of the CCZ as protected areas or 1.97 million square kilometers, or Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs) aiming to ensure that all types of habitats that could be impacted by exploitation are represented within APEIs. For comparison, only approximately 8.2% of global oceans are protected today and the global target agreed in the High Seas Treaty in March 2023 is to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030. Additional marine impact mitigation measures such as setting aside more no-take areas inside our contract areas and leaving partial nodule cover inside collection areas to aid natural recovery of bacterial and other communities are also being evaluated. We are collaborating with some of the world’s leading researchers to conduct environmental baseline and collection impact studies to design plans that could mitigate marine impacts of nodule collection through collection system design and adaptive management systems.

If the entire CCZ area currently under exploration (1.28 million square kilometers) were to be exploited over a 30-year period, these nodule collection operations would impact 42,500 square kilometers of the abyssal seafloor per year in one of the least productive areas of the ocean (with respect to the abundance of marine life). This is less than 1% of the estimated 4,900,000 square kilometers of the seafloor currently impacted every year by trawling operations that take place primarily in highly productive coastal waters.

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Potential future commercial-scale nodule collection operations in the CCZ are likely to disturb marine wildlife in the operating area. The nature and severity of these impacts on CCZ wildlife are expected to vary by species and are currently subject to uncertainty. We have completed studies baselining wildlife and ecosystem function, piloting the nodule collection system and assessing impacts arising from the use of this system immediately following the collector test and 12 months after the collector test, processing and assessment of collected data are currently in progress. Given the significant volume of deep water and the difficulty of sampling or retrieving biological specimens in the CCZ, a complete biological inventory might never be established. Accordingly, impacts on CCZ biodiversity may never be completely and definitively known. Given that similar challenges remain on land, with an estimated 70-80% of species still undescribed, it may also not be possible to definitively establish whether the impact of nodule collection on global biodiversity will be less significant than those estimated for land-based mining for a similar amount of produced metal.

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It is also currently not definitively known how effectively the risk of biodiversity loss in the CCZ could be eliminated or reduced through mitigation strategies or how long it will take for disturbed seabed areas to recover naturally. Prior research indicates that the density, diversity and function of fauna representing most of the resident biomass (including mobile, pelagic and microbial life) are expected to recover naturally over years to decades. However, a high level of uncertainty exists around recovery of fauna that requires the hard substrate of nodules for critical life function. The extent to which planned measures such as leaving behind partial nodule cover and setting aside no-take areas would aid recruitment and recovery of nodule-dependent species in impacted areas will depend on factors like habitat connectivity, which is an area that is still under study.

We are still in the exploration phase of the project and do not have the exploitation contracts necessary to commence commercial-scale nodule collection operations in the CCZ nor have we obtained the applicable environmental and other permits required to build and operate commercial scale polymetallic nodule processing and refining plants on land.

All extractive industries result in impacts to the receiving environment. Nodule collection is no exception and will impact the deep-sea marine environment through nodule removal, disturbance of seafloor sediment (“seafloor plumes”) and return of seawater used for nodule transport that is expected to contain residual sediment and nodule fines back in the water column (“midwater plumes”). Baselining the impacted marine environment by characterizing the ecosystem and then developing measures to avoid and mitigate these impacts is the central focus of our offshore ESIA program currently being undertaken in partnership with some of the world’s leading deep-sea research institutions. Nodule removal will impact species that depend on the hard nodule substrate for attachment. The severity of the impact will depend on (1) the extent to which these species are represented in the APEIs set aside by the ISA and additional no-take areas set aside by us and (2) the extent to which residual nodule cover will aid recruitment and recovery of these species in impacted areas. Disturbance of the seafloor by nodule collector vehicles is expected to disturb (mostly microbial) organisms living in and on the sediments. Impact severity will depend on the depth of sediment disturbance (expected to be approximately 5 centimeters based on modelling, laboratory tests, and recent collector tests completed in the CCZ by our subsidiary NORI and two other nodule contract-holders, Belgium’s Global Sea Mineral Resources NV (GSR) and the German’s BGR) and the impact this disturbance has on benthic ecosystem function. Over 90% of the entrained sediment is expected to be separated from nodules inside the collector vehicle and discharged behind the collector vehicle, most settling back to the seafloor within a few hundred meters. The impact of the residual plume will depend on how quickly the smaller mobile sediment particles re-settle, how far they travel and how the resulting sedimentation impacts the benthic organisms. Less than 10% of entrained sediment that will likely evade separation inside the collector vehicle will be transported with nodules and seawater through the riser pipe to the surface production vessel where nodules get dewatered and residual water, sediment and nodules fines will be returned at some depth in the water column below the highly populated and productive photic zone. Potential impacts from the mid-water sediment plume could include clogging of the delicate respiratory and filter feeding structures of pelagic zooplankton species, such as jellyfish and krill. However, the mid-water discharge is expected to have very low solid particle concentration and dilute to low levels within minutes. The depth of discharge will be selected based on ESIA results to minimize impact on life in the midwater column.  According to a research paper on midwater sediment plumes published by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) in Communications Earth & Environment in July 2021, entrained sediment from the return of seawater used for nodule transport dilutes to natural background levels within a few hundred meters of the outlet. Another research paper on seafloor sediment plumes published by MIT and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in September 2022 found that 92-98% of benthic plume generated from the pilot nodule collector vehicle rose only two meters above the seafloor.

Our Strategic Positioning

We believe we are well positioned to meet the growing demand for critical battery metals:

Supply for increasing demand: The response to climate change is driving robust demand for EVs, renewable energy storage and infrastructure. To manufacture battery cells, gigafactories will need critical battery metals like nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper to meet rising battery demand.  Globally, the number of signatories to the Zero Emission Vehicle declaration announced at COP28 in November 2023 increased to 228, which is aimed at accelerating the transition to 100% new car sales being zero emission globally by 2040, and by 2035 in leading markets.  The U.S. government enacted the IRA, spurring a ramp-up of investments in battery and battery component production.  Additionally, the U.S. government entered into new critical mineral trade agreement with Japan, which we believe improves our business prospects related to our plans to commercially process nodules at the Pacific Metals Co. Ltd. (“PAMCO”) facility in Hachinohe, Japan.

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Path to energy security: Throughout 2023, China limited exports of gallium and germanium, which are needed to produce semiconductor chips and graphite, a key ingredient in battery anodes. China also banned the export of rare earth metal extraction and separation technologies used in production of hybrid and battery electric vehicle motors. These events underscore a national security rationale for the U.S. and Western countries for reducing dependence on China as the world’s largest refiner of Class 1 nickel, cobalt and manganese. With our NORI and TOML contract areas ranked as the world’s first and second largest undeveloped nickel projects, respectively, by Mining.com in both 2022 and 2023, we believe the polymetallic nodules found in our NORI and TOML contract areas offer an internationally governed source of key battery metals that can effectively be decoupled from Chinese supply chains.
Advancing developing countries: All three of our Sponsoring States are small developing Pacific Island nations impacted by climate change, each of which expect to receive income streams from their sponsored areas if exploration contracts are granted to extract polymetallic nodules in their sponsored areas. Royalties from commercial production of polymetallic nodules payable to the ISA are required to be distributed by the ISA with focus on developing countries.

Our Competitive Advantages

With the potential that our resources hold and the project advancements we have made to date, we believe we are better positioned than other suppliers to provide a solution to the growing need for critical battery metals:

Availability of abundant and high-grade resource off the U.S. western seaboard: There are four critical battery metals (nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese) in relatively high concentrations in polymetallic nodules and we believe our contract areas have estimated in situ quantities of these metals equivalent to the requirement for 280 million EVs, roughly the size of the entire U.S. passenger vehicle fleet on the road today.
Opportunity for battery metal production in the U.S.: The current supply chain of battery materials to the U.S. is approximately 50,000 miles long and is predominantly controlled by nations and companies outside of the U.S., which is leading to increasing concerns about supply chain security in the U.S. and interest in breaking the U.S. mineral dependence by re-shoring battery material supply chain in the U.S.
Opportunity to reuse existing offshore assets and skills: We believe there is an opportunity for us to partner with offshore service providers with deep operational experience in subsea environments gained in the oil and gas industry and with existing assets that can be repurposed for our offshore nodule collection operations. We have taken advantage of this opportunity by forging a strategic alliance with Allseas Group S.A. (“Allseas”), a leading offshore contractor in 2019. In 2020, Allseas acquired a drillship that was repurposed and classified as the world’s first deep-sea mining vessel.
Demonstrated offshore nodule collection technology: In November 2022, NORI and Allseas completed the Pilot Mining Test where approximately 4,500 tonnes of wet nodules were collected and more than 3,000 tonnes of wet nodules were lifted 4.3 kilometers to the surface after traversing over 80 kilometers of the seafloor in the NORI Area D, achieving a sustained production rate of 86.4 tonnes per hour with a scaled-down prototype seafloor nodule collector vehicle.
Demonstrated onshore nodule processing technology: In 2021, we successfully completed the calcining and smelting of nodules into a manganese silicate product and nickel-copper-cobalt alloy intermediate product, followed by conversion and sulfidation of the alloy into matte. Testwork on the matte to define conditions for the hydrometallurgical refinery has been successfully conducted on all process stages and we anticipate completion of the program in the first quarter of 2024 with generation of what we believe will be battery-grade nickel and cobalt sulfates in test quantities.

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Opportunity to reuse existing onshore assets and skills: We believe there is an opportunity for us to partner with onshore processors with deep operational experience in processing nickel-bearing ores and with existing Rotary Kiln Electric Arc Furnace (“RKEF”) plants that can be repurposed for processing our nodules into intermediate products. We have taken advantage of this opportunity by signing a non-binding memorandum of understanding (“MoU”) with PAMCO, an experienced operator of a nickel laterite smelting complex in Hachinohe, Japan (IRA-compliant jurisdiction) in 2023. Following the completion of a prefeasibility exercise by PAMCO to assess nodule processing at their facility, we have signed a binding MoU in November 2023 to complete a feasibility study to process the first 1.3 Mtpa (wet) of nodules at PAMCO’s facility. A demonstration trial at PAMCO’s Hachinohe facilities with 2,000 tonnes of nodules collected during the mining pilot is expected to take place in 2024, which would further de-risk the project.
Lower expected production cost: Based on the Initial Economic Assessment completed for NORI Area D project in March 2021, which was based on potential steady state production of approximately 12.5Mtpa of wet nodules from 2030 to 2045, we expected to be the second lowest cost nickel producer in the world, when reflecting the value of our byproducts). This Initial Economic Assessment was based on a high-capital asset expenditure (“CAPEX”) approach to our development and commercialization of operations where the majority of offshore and onshore production assets would be newly built by us. However, we are currently pursuing a low-CAPEX approach for our NORI Area D project where we reuse existing production assets.
Lower expected environmental, social and governance footprint: The LCA completed by Benchmark in March 2023 shows that the NORI Area D project model performed better in most impact categories analyzed than all the land-based routes chosen for comparison.  This favorable comparison is explained by the fact that we are developing a new type of high-grade multi-metal source found on the abyssal plain, a low biomass, low carbon sequestration deep-sea environment removed from human settlement.

Exploration Contracts

We currently hold exclusive exploration rights through our subsidiaries NORI and TOML and exclusive commercial rights through an agreement with Marawa, to certain polymetallic nodule areas in the CCZ.

NORI.    NORI our wholly-owned subsidiary, holds exploration rights to four blocks (NORI Area A, B, C, and D, the “NORI Contract Area”) covering 74,830 square kilometers in the CCZ that were granted by the ISA in July 2011. NORI is sponsored by Nauru pursuant to a certificate of sponsorship signed by the Government of Nauru on April 11, 2011. The NORI Area D is the seafloor parcel where we have performed the most resource definition and environmental work to date. NORI commissioned AMC Consulting Ltd, a leading mining consulting firm (AMC), to undertake a preliminary economic assessment (“PEA”) of the mineral resource contained in NORI Area D and to compile a technical report compliant with Canadian National Instrument (NI 43-101), which was completed in March 2021. AMC subsequently compiled the NORI Technical Report Summary, dated March 2021, which included an initial assessment and an economic analysis of NORI Area D prepared in accordance with the SEC Mining Rules. The NORI Technical Report Summary is filed as Exhibit 96.1 to this Annual Report.

TOML.    TOML our wholly-owned subsidiary which we acquired in March 2020, holds exploration rights to an area covering 74,713 square kilometers in the CCZ that were granted by the ISA in January 2012 (the “TOML Contract Area”). On March 8, 2008, Tonga and TOML entered into a sponsorship agreement formalizing certain obligations of the parties in relation to TOML’s exploration application to the ISA (subsequently granted) for the TOML Contract Area.  The sponsorship agreement was updated on September 23, 2021. TOML commissioned a Technical Report Summary by AMC, dated March 2021, which is filed as Exhibit 96.2 to this Annual Report.

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Marawa.    DGE, our wholly-owned subsidiary, entered into agreements with Marawa and Kiribati which provide DGE with exclusive exploration rights to an area covering 74,990 square kilometers in the CCZ (the “Marawa Contract Area”). The exploration contract between Marawa and the ISA (the “Marawa Exploration Contract”) was signed on January 19, 2015. To date, limited offshore marine resource definition activities in the Marawa Contract Area have occurred. We are collaborating with Marawa to assess the viability of any potential project in the Marawa Contract Area, although the timing of such assessment is uncertain.  Marawa has delayed certain of its efforts in the Marawa Contract Area while it determines how it will move forward with additional assessment work.

Graphic

Business Strategy

Our contemplated business spans the entire lifecycle from the resource acquisition and definition stage through the collection and transportation phases offshore into the processing and refining of nodules onshore and finally in product marketing and offtake (and eventually recycling of end-of-life products containing nodule-derived metals). NORI and TOML, two of our subsidiaries, intend to operate in the CCZ under the effective supervision, regulation and sponsorship of the Republic of Nauru and the Kingdom of Tonga, respectively. We intend to utilize processing operations in locations that are yet to be finalized. We have chosen a capital-light approach to our operations and have focused on forming deep strategic partnerships with leading offshore and onshore companies.

Our key strategic alliances include:

Allseas: Allseas, a leading global offshore contractor, has developed and successfully tested the pilot nodule collection system in the NORI Area D, completed in the fourth quarter of 2022. The experience from the development and testing program of the pilot system are now informing the design of upgrades and modifications into the initial smaller scale commercial production system which is expected to serve as the basis for the design of a full-scale commercial production system.

Glencore: Glencore International AG (Glencore) holds offtake rights to 50% of the NORI nickel and copper production.  Glencore has the right to purchase from DGE 50% of the annual quantity of copper material and 50% of the annual quantity of nickel material produced by DGE from ore derived from the NORI Contract Area at a processing plant directly owned or controlled by DGE.

Hatch and KPM: We have worked with engineering firm Hatch Ltd. (“Hatch”) and consultants Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc. (KPM) to develop a near-zero solid waste flowsheet. The primary processing stages of the flowsheet from nodule to NiCuCo matte intermediate were demonstrated as part of our pilot plant program at FLSmidth and Xpert Process Solutions, a Glencore company (“XPS”), facilities. The matte refining stages are being tested at SGS Lakefield. The near-zero solid waste flowsheet is expected to serve as the basis for our onshore processing facilities.

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PAMCO: In November 2022, TMC entered into a non-binding MoU with PAMCO of Japan. In November 2023, we entered into a binding MoU with PAMCO whereby they must complete a feasibility study (anticipated to be completed during the third quarter of 2024) to toll treat 1.3 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules per year at its Hachinohe, Japan smelting facility, which is expected to start in the second quarter of 2026, if we obtain an exploration contract from the ISA in a timely manner. 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.

The toll treatment is expected to take place on a dedicated 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 successfully completed a pre-feasibility exercise pursuant to the non-binding MoU signed by the parties in November 2022. Under the binding MoU signed in November 2023:

PAMCO, with our support, expects to complete the feasibility study by the third quarter of 2024.
We will provide PAMCO with the exclusive right to the first 1.3Mtpa of the expected 3Mtpa of wet nodule collection capacity our first nodule collection system until completion of the feasibility study.
The parties will enter into good faith negotiations to finalize definitive processing agreements on completion of the feasibility study.

The feasibility study is expected to confirm operating parameters and product specifications for PAMCO’s dedicated production line and define the scope and execution plan for any additional equipment requirements, which are expected to be minor. An extended pilot demonstration program utilizing existing kilns and furnaces at PAMCO’s Hachinohe, Japan facility is expected to treat a 2,000 tonne sample of polymetallic nodules collected during the successful pilot nodule collector test completed by Allseas in November 2022 on NORI Area D, with the goal of optimizing the furnace refractory selection and confirm commercial scale operating parameters such as tapping temperatures and dusting rates when treating nodules through the Hachinohe facility. The cost of processing polymetallic nodules will also be estimated to help finalize the definitive processing agreements.

In parallel, PAMCO is continuing to study the addition of a converting facility to process the intermediate alloy to nickel-copper-cobalt matte, which is an upgraded intermediate battery supply chain feedstock. It is expected that the additional facility would be constructed once commercial processing of polymetallic nodules to alloy has been demonstrated.

There can be no assurance that we will enter into a definitive strategic alliance with PAMCO in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those set forth in the binding MoU, or that if a definitive strategic alliance are entered into by us or that the existing facility will be able to successfully process nodules in a particular time period, or at all.

Phased Project Development

Currently, we are an exploration stage company with a completed Initial Economic Assessment, working towards a pre-feasibility study that will form an integral part of our ISA application for an exploitation contract for the NORI Contract Areas. We expect to enter into the feasibility study phase in 2024, having completed the pilot collection system test with Allseas in the CCZ in the fourth quarter of 2022. Having significantly advanced resource definition and environmental baseline studies on NORI Area D, we intend to apply for an exploitation contract on that area first. If we obtain an exploitation contract, we then plan to commence production offshore (“Project Zero”) at the end of the first quarter of 2026 using the Hidden Gem vessel which, subject to further modifications, is expected to be upgraded to a maximum capacity of 3.0 Mtpa of wet nodules.  Subject to the success of Project Zero and any regulatory requirements, we then expect to move into the next phase of production (“Project One”) in which we intend to scale up production and expect to collect and process up to approximately 12.5Mtpa of wet nodules at steady state (expected 2030-2045), as outlined in the NORI – D Technical Report Summary.

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Current Work Program

We are currently focused on preparing to submit our application to the ISA for our first exploitation contract, which will include the entire NORI Contract Area, with the initial collection activities occurring within NORI Area D only following the July 2024 meetings of the ISA’s twenty-ninth session. Assuming a review process of approximately one-year, we expect to be in production offshore at the end of the first quarter of 2026, if the application is approved.

To reach our objective and initiate commercial production, we are: (i) defining our resource and project economics, (ii) developing a commercial offshore nodule collection system, (iii) assessing the environmental and social impacts of offshore nodule collection, and (iv) developing onshore technology to process collected polymetallic nodules into a manganese silicate product, and an intermediate nickel-copper-cobalt matte or nickel-copper-cobalt alloy product and/or end-products like nickel and cobalt sulfates, and copper cathode.

(i)Resource definition and project economics: Having completed a total of nine offshore resource definition campaigns, collected samples and completed subsea surveys for resource evaluation, we have defined the size and quality of our resource in the NORI and TOML Areas, as described below, in our SEC Regulation S-K (subpart 1300) compliant Technical Report Summary - Initial Assessment of the NORI Property, Clarion Clipperton Zone, Pacific Ocean dated March 17, 2021 (“NORI Initial Assessment”) and Technical Report Summary - TOML Mineral Resource, Clarion Clipperton Zone, Pacific Ocean dated March 26, 2021 (“TOML Mineral Resource Statement”), respectively, prepared by AMC. From this work, both NORI and TOML have reported measured, indicated and inferred resources as tabulated below.

NORI Area 2020 Mineral Resource Estimate, in situ, for the NORI Areas within the CCZ at 4kg/m2 nodule abundance cut-off.

Graphic

Note: Tonnes are quoted on a wet basis and grades are quoted on a dry basis, which is common practice for bulk commodities. Moisture content was estimated to 24% w/w. These estimates are presented on an undiluted basis without adjustment for resource recovery.

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TOML Area 2020 Mineral Resource Estimate, in situ, for the TOML Areas within the CCZ at 4kg/m2 nodule abundance cut-off.

Graphic

Note: Tonnes are quoted on a wet basis and grades are quoted on a dry basis, which is common practice for bulk commodities. Moisture content was estimated to 28% w/w. These estimates are presented on an undiluted basis without adjustment for resource recovery.

We plan to continue to define our resource in the NORI and TOML areas, develop project economics to pre-feasibility and feasibility level and convert resources into reserves.

(ii)Commercial offshore nodule collection system development: We are working with our strategic partner and investor, Allseas, to develop a system to collect, lift and transport nodules from the seafloor to shore. The offshore collection system consists of nodule collector vehicles on the seafloor, a riser and lift system, and a surface production support vessel. The nodules are collected from the seafloor by self-propelled, tracked nodule collector vehicles using seawater jets aimed at nodules in parallel with the seafloor. No rock cutting, digging, drill-and-blast or other breakage are required at the point of collection. The collectors are remotely controlled and supplied with electric power via umbilical cables from the production support vessel, the Hidden Gem. To test the system and assess its environmental impacts, we entered into a contract with Allseas to undertake a pilot trial of the collection system in the NORI Area D, which was completed in November 2022. The successful completion of the pilot trial will support our application for an exploitation contract with the ISA. An Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for this pilot trial was submitted to the ISA in July 2021 and approved on September 7, 2022, with infield testing commencing on September 19, 2022. The surface production support vessel, the Hidden Gem, was acquired by Allseas in March 2020 and has strategic importance to us, since it supported the pilot trial and is expected to be upgraded to a low-capital early production system.  The vessel and collector system successfully completed trials in shallow and deepwater in the first half of 2022 prior to completing the collector test in NORI Area D in the fall of 2022, where approximately 4,500 tonnes of wet nodules were collected and more than 3000 tonnes of wet nodules were lifted 4.3 kilometers to the surface after traversing over 80 kilometers of the seafloor, achieving a production rate of 86.4 tonnes per hour.

As a result of the successful collector test in the fourth quarter of 2022, where more than 3000 tonnes of wet nodules were lifted to the Hidden Gem, Allseas and NORI believe that they can upgrade the pilot nodule collection system, including the Hidden Gem, into the first production system, which we refer to as the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System.

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In August 2023, we announced that Allseas and NORI are executing on a plan designed based on Allseas’ estimates to increase the maximum production capacity of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System from the previous estimate of 1.3 million wet tonnes per annum to up to an estimated 3.0 million wet tonnes per annum in stepped increments, a potential increase of 130%. The upgrades are expected to include the addition of a second collector vehicle, the use of a wider diameter riser pipe from the seafloor to the surface, implementation of a larger compressor spread and improvements to the system designed to further mitigate its environmental impacts.

System capacity is expected to be increased over time as production and experience milestones are met, which we believe will help manage operational risk, minimize up-front capital expenditure requirements and allow for staged increases in capacity as environmental review thresholds are met.

The work program with Allseas during 2023 focused on the review of the pilot nodule collection system performance, review of operational issues and identification of potential improvements to overall system performance. Key aspects include scaling the technology to meeting the anticipated commercial production rates of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System and integration of the scaled-up technology into the Hidden Gem. Engineering scope has been split into six major work packages: (1) collector, (2) vertical transport system (riser and riser handling equipment), (3) storage & offloading, (4) control & automation, (5) electrical & instrumentation, and (6) flow assurance. Engineering studies have progressed on the offshore nodule offloading and transportation system, including hydrodynamic simulations and dynamic positioning analysis of the vessel-to-vessel interface during the nodule offloading activity. In line with engineering milestones, design reviews have been conducted at the Allseas office in Delft, Netherlands. The design reviews are attended by us, Allseas and third-party consultants. Regular meetings are held between us and Allseas project teams covering engineering, procurement, scheduling and estimating, operational planning (including health and safety aspects) and environmental impact.

Further to our non-binding term sheet entered into in March 2022 with Allseas, we continue discussions with Allseas regarding the specifics of these upgrades and the continued development of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System and anticipate reaching definitive agreements on commercial terms and key terms around continued development and commercial operations with Allseas before the submission of the NORI exploitation application in 2024. There can be no assurances, however, that we will enter into definitive agreements with Allseas in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those currently expected, or that if such definitive agreements are entered into that the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System will be successfully developed or operated.

In addition, on August 1, 2023, we entered into an Exclusive Vessel Use Agreement with Allseas pursuant to which Allseas will give exclusive use of the Hidden Gem to us in support of the development of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System until the system is completed or December 31, 2026, whichever is earlier. In consideration of the exclusivity term, we have issued 4.15 million of our common shares to Allseas (“Common Shares”) on August 14, 2023. We expect that the definitive agreement with Allseas discussed above will extend the exclusive use of the Hidden Gem.

(iii)Environmental and social impact assessment (“ESIA”) for offshore nodule collection: The ESIA is an integral part of preparing our application for the ISA exploitation contract on the NORI Contract Area. Our ESIA program consists of over 100 studies and relies on the work of several independent deep-sea research institutions. In 2022, we undertook the collector test monitoring campaigns which involved completion of pre-collector test baseline data collection, monitoring of the collector test to and completion of post collection surveys to determine the immediate collector impact to the environment.  The monitoring was undertaken using the Island Pride, a vessel contracted from Ocean Infinity Group Limited, deploying 2 remotely operated vehicles (“ROVs”), 3 autonomous underwater vehicles (“AUVs”) and an array of more than 50 seafloor sensors, supervised by multiple teams of scientists and sediment plume expert consultants, DHI Water and Environment Inc. and HR Wallingford.  These campaigns commenced on July 15, 2022 and were completed on December 23, 2022, representing 146 operational days at sea.  The preliminary plume results from the collector test have been shared with a wide range of stakeholders and presentations were conducted at the ISA during the fourth quarter of 2023.

In October 2023 we entered into a services agreement with a third party in order for NORI to conduct an assessment of the benthic impact of the 2022 collector test in NORI Area D approximately 12 months post the collector test activities (“Campaign 8a”), which we believe will strengthen the quality of NORI’s EIS and Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (“EMMP”) by providing additional information on the environmental regeneration of the collection test area. The key activities completed during campaign 8a were box cores, multicores, benthic and covariance lander works, and megafauna and sedimentation survey around the test field area.

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Notwithstanding that Campaign 8a was subject to coordinated disruptive activities by Greenpeace International (“Greenpeace”) designed to prevent and obstruct the campaign, it was successfully completed on December 28, 2023. The team selected 19 sampling stations in the locality of the 2022 nodule collection system test in NORI Area D and conducted 39 multicore deployments, recovering 395 individual core samples. These yielded more than 600 subsamples that will be shared with independent researchers from leading marine research institutions for further biological analysis. Additionally using a remotely operated vehicle, the research team deployed innovative seafloor lander systems that are capable of measuring seafloor oxygen fluxes using eddy covariance methods. This resulted in over 600 hours of data acquisition at a maximum deployment depth of 4,285 meters, which we believe is the first time these bespoke sensor suites have been deployed at abyssal depths. This data is further supplemented by over one thousand core sub-samples for geochemical analysis. Researchers also conducted the fourth annual recovery and redeployment of three oceanographic moorings within NORI Area D. The sensor payload on the moorings provides insights into the soundscape, regional oceanographic currents, and particulate organic carbon flux in the Eastern CCZ regions. This data contributes to the long-term oceanographic time series and importantly will cover the El Niño-Southern Oscillation fluctuations. Greenpeace spent 11 days, actively obstructing the planned work of Campaign 8a, resulting in a significant impact to the work scopes planned for the campaign which we were able to successfully mitigate. In the case of TOML and our planned work as part of Campaign 8a, its work scope included the deployment of long-term monitoring moorings which was completely obstructed and was not able to be completed. The NORI and TOML work scopes were part of ISA approved plans of work and in NORI’s case, the post disturbance sampling was a specific suggestion of the ISA.  NORI pursued legal action through the Dutch courts to halt Greenpeace’s activities and requested further assistance from the ISA. The District Court of Amsterdam ruled that Greenpeace’s occupation of NORI’s contracted vessel, the MV Coco, was unlawful, which led to the disembarkation of Greenpeace personnel. Greenpeace continued to actively obstruct NORI’s and TOML’s activities notwithstanding the court ruling.

(iv)Onshore technology development: To process and refine collected nodules into critical metals, we have developed a flowsheet together with a metallurgical process design firm, Hatch. This flowsheet uses conventional equipment, modified for the unique nature of the polymetallic nodule resource to deliver a process that is expected to generate near zero solid waste. The key products generated by this process are nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, copper cathode, manganese silicate and fertilizer-grade ammonium sulfate. The processing flowsheet also provides the potential to generate an intermediate product, a nickel-copper-cobalt matte and a nickel-copper-cobalt-iron alloy. Nickel is expected to account for almost half of future production revenues. We have completed lab-scale test work and offshore campaigns to collect a bulk sample for pilot-scale metallurgical testing. We are continuing with a metallurgical test program. In 2021, we successfully completed calcining and smelting of the nodule bulk samples into a manganese silicate product and nickel-copper-cobalt alloy intermediate, followed by converting and sulfidation of the alloy into matte. We continue testing the hydrometallurgical refining phase where matte is processed to produce nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, copper cathode and fertilizer grade ammonium sulfate.

In addition, as described above and below, in 2022 and 2023, we entered into a non-binding MoU and a binding MoU with PAMCO to study the possibility of using PAMCO’s facility in Hachinohe, Japan to produce up to 1.3 million tonnes of net polymetallic nodules per year.

PAMCO is continuing to study the addition of a converting facility to process the intermediate alloy to nickel-copper-cobalt matte, which is an upgraded intermediate battery supply chain feedstock. It is expected that the additional facility would be constructed once commercial processing of polymetallic nodules to alloy has been demonstrated. There can be no assurance that we will enter into a definitive processing agreement in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those set forth in the binding MoU, or that the existing facility will be able to successfully process nodules in a particular time period, or at all.

Summary of Mineral Resources

Below is a summary table of estimated mineral resources in NORI and TOML contract areas as of December 31, 2023.  The estimated mineral resources in these areas were determined in 2021 as of December 31, 2020, and also reflect the estimated mineral resources as of December 31, 2023, as none of the mineral resources in these areas were depleted by mining or any other activities. See Item 2 entitled “Properties” below for additional information about our estimated mineral resources. Both of these contract areas are in the exploration stage.

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Summary Mineral Resources, In-Situ, at end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023 at 4kg/m2 abundance cut-off and based on nickel metal $16,472/t; copper metal $6,872/t; cobalt metal $46,333/t; manganese in manganese silicate $4.50/dmtu Mn.

    

Measured +

Measured mineral

Indicated mineral

indicated mineral

Inferred mineral

    

resources

resources

resources

resources

    

Million

    

    

Million

    

    

Million

    

    

Million

    

tonnes

Grades

tonnes

Grades

tonnes

Grades

tonnes

Grades

(wet)

(%)

(wet)

(%)

(wet)

(%)

(wet)

(%)

Ni

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

NORI

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

NORI Area A

 

 

 

 

 

72

 

1.35

NORI Area B

 

 

 

 

 

36

 

1.43

NORI Area C

 

 

 

 

 

402

 

1.26

NORI Area D

 

4

 

1.42

 

341

 

1.40

 

345

 

1.40

 

11

 

1.38

TOML (Areas A to F)

 

2.6

 

1.33

 

69.6

 

1.35

 

72.2

 

1.35

 

696

 

1.29

Total

 

6.6

 

1.38

 

410.6

 

1.39

 

417.2

 

1.39

 

1,217

 

1.29

Cu

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI Area A

 

 

 

 

 

72

 

1.06

NORI Area B

 

 

 

 

 

36

 

1.13

NORI Area C

 

 

 

 

 

402

 

1.03

NORI Area D

 

4

 

1.16

 

341

 

1.14

 

345

 

1.14

 

11

 

1.14

TOML (Areas A to F)

 

2.6

 

1.05

 

69.6

 

1.18

 

72.2

 

1.18

 

696

 

1.14

Total

 

6.6

 

1.12

 

410.6

 

1.15

 

417.2

 

1.15

 

1,217

 

1.10

Co

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI Area A

 

 

 

 

 

72

 

0.22

NORI Area B

 

 

 

 

 

36

 

0.25

NORI Area C

 

 

 

 

 

402

 

0.21

NORI Area D

 

4

 

0.13

 

341

 

0.14

 

345

 

0.14

 

11

 

0.12

TOML (Areas A to F)

 

2.6

 

0.23

 

69.6

 

0.21

 

72.2

 

0.21

 

696

 

0.20

Total

 

6.6

 

0.17

 

410.6

 

0.15

 

417.2

 

0.15

 

1,217

 

0.21

Mn

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

NORI Area A

 

 

 

 

 

72

 

28.0

NORI Area B

 

 

 

 

 

36

 

28.9

NORI Area C

 

 

 

 

 

402

 

28.3

NORI Area D

 

4

 

32.2

 

341

 

31.2

 

345

 

31.2

 

11

 

31.0

TOML (Areas A to F)

 

2.6

 

27.6

 

69.6

 

30.3

 

72.2

 

30.2

 

402

 

29.0

Total

 

6.6

 

30.4

 

410.6

 

31.0

 

417.2

 

31.0

 

923

 

28.6

Note: Tonnes are quoted on a wet basis and grades are quoted on a dry basis, which is common practice for bulk commodities. Moisture content was estimated to be 24% w/w for NORI and 28% w/w for TOML. These estimates are presented on an undiluted basis without adjustment for resource recovery.

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As reflected in the Initial Economic Assessment of NORI Area D contained in the NORI Technical Report Summary, a discounted cash flow analysis considering the intended pre-development work up to the end of 2024, discounting at 9% per annum, and assuming metal prices for nickel metal $16,472/t; nickel in nickel sulfate $18,807/t Ni; copper metal $6,872/t; cobalt metal $46,333/t; cobalt in cobalt sulfate $56,920/t Co; manganese in manganese silicate $4.50/dmtu Mn, indicates a NORI Area D project net present value (as of January 1, 2021) of $6.8 billion. The initial assessment included in the NORI Technical Report Summary is a conceptual study of the potential viability of NORI’s mineral resources. This initial assessment indicates that development of the NORI mineral resource is potentially technically and economically viable; however, due to the preliminary nature of project planning and design, and the untested nature of the specific seafloor production systems at a commercial scale, economic viability has not yet been demonstrated.

The NORI Technical Report Summary and TOML Technical Report Summary do not include the conversion of mineral resources to mineral reserves.

You are specifically cautioned not to assume that any part or all of the mineral deposits in these categories will ever be converted into mineral reserves, as defined by the SEC. You are also cautioned that mineral resources do not have demonstrated economic value. Inferred mineral resources have a high degree of uncertainty as to their existence and to whether they can be economically or legally commercialized. Under the SEC Mining Rules, estimates of inferred mineral resources may not form the basis of an economic analysis. It cannot be assumed that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource will ever be upgraded to a higher category. A significant amount of exploration must be completed in order to determine whether an inferred mineral resource may be upgraded to a higher category. Therefore, you are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource exists, that it can be economically or legally commercialized, or that it will ever be upgraded to a higher category. Approximately 97% of the NORI Area D resource is categorized as measured or indicated.

Likewise, you are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of measured or indicated mineral resources will ever be upgraded to mineral reserves.

Collection and Processing of Polymetallic Nodules

Collection and Shipping

We are planning a phased development for NORI Area D. Polymetallic nodules would be collected using offshore collection systems, comprising of nodule collector vehicles on the seafloor, a riser and lifting system (RALS) in the water column, and a production support vessel on the surface. The nodules are expected to be transferred to transport vessels and shipped to onshore processing facilities.

Through our strategic partnership with Allseas, a former drillship vessel (the Hidden Gem) acquired by Allseas in February 2020 has been converted and modified to undertake a pre-production collector test in which a collector vehicle, RALS and other systems have been tested. If we obtain an exploitation contract, the first phase of commercial production (“Project Zero”) would then be expected to commence after the Hidden Gem has been upgraded to become a production support vessel that can produce up to 3 Mtpa (wet) of nodules. The nodules collected in Project Zero are expected to be processed through existing third-party RKEF facilities on a tolling basis. In the next phase of development (“Project One”), as outlined in the NORI – D Initial Assessment Technical Report Summary, production is expected to be expanded with an additional converted drillship (Drill Ship 2), a subsequent upgrade to the Hidden Gem, and the construction of a bespoke production support vessel (Collector Ship 1).

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Graphic

Illustration of a polymetallic nodule production system operated at 4 kilometers depth

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In order to test the collection system, we entered into a contract with Allseas to undertake a pre-production collector test, which was successfully completed in the second half of 2022.  We expect that Project Zero commercial production would then commence after the upgrading of the Hidden Gem into a production vessel. If we obtain an exploitation contract, we expect to commence Project Zero Collection at a rate of 1.3 Mtpa increasing in staged increments to up to 3.0 Mtpa of wet polymetallic nodules. For Project One, we believe that a fleet of three production vessels, each with multiple dedicated nodule collector vehicles, could be estimated to produce approximately 12.5 Mtpa of wet nodules at steady state (expected 2030-2045), which we intend to process, either at a new facility to be constructed by us or by potential processing partners, subject to available capital, or at third-party facilities pursuant to a toll treatment model.

Graphic

We believe that this phased approach to development allows for proper management of risk and for progressive improvement of engineering and operating systems. The intention is to implement the project in multiple phases that will allow the offshore collection systems to be tested and then polymetallic nodule production to be gradually ramped- up. We believe that this approach will de-risk the project for a relatively low initial capital investment while retaining operational options, particularly in relation to logistics, to decrease unit operating cost as production is scaled up. Additionally, this phased development will allow for an adaptive approach to environmental management providing learning at small-scale which would be applied as production increases in scale.

Mineral Processing and Refining and Metallurgical Testing

Pyrometallurgical processing of polymetallic nodules has been extensively studied since the early 1970s.

From an early stage, we have recognized that processing represents a key to potentially commercializing seafloor polymetallic nodules and to becoming a low-cost producer of nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt products. Moreover, we believe that there is a commercial advantage in positioning ourselves as a leader in the onshore processing of seafloor polymetallic nodules.

To this end, we have been working with leading global process engineering group Hatch, and a professional services firm, to develop pyrometallurgical processing and hydrometallurgical refining technologies for the production of battery metals feedstocks from nodules. Hatch has developed a near-zero solid waste flowsheet and has overseen a pyrometallurgical pilot plant program consisting of several phases: the pyrometallurgical processing phase has been completed at FLSmidth’s and XPS facilities, the hydrometallurgical refining phase is in progress at SGS facilities. Pursuant to an engineering and consulting services agreement, Hatch is assisting and advising us during the development of the pilot test program and is analyzing and interpreting the testing results through reports provided by such test facilities.

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We expect that the processing of the polymetallic nodules from the NORI Contract Area would also be ramped up in phases. This plan includes initially toll treating polymetallic nodules at existing RKEF plants, utilizing existing excess industry capacity. We believe that there is significant interest to deploy underutilized RKEF plants which may have become stranded as a result of the Indonesian government nickel laterite ore export ban restricting supply of the nickel laterite feedstock that they have previously utilized. These RKEF plants were originally built to convert nickel laterite to ferro-nickel alloy or nickel pig iron and could potentially be converted to smelt polymetallic nodules.

In November 2023, we signed a binding MoU with PAMCO, where PAMCO must complete a feasibility study (expected to be completed during the third quarter of 2024) to toll treat 1.3 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules per year at its Hachinohe, Japan smelting facility expected to start in the second quarter of 2026, consistent with the commencement of NORI’s planned first production offshore from the end of the first quarter of 2026, if our expected application to the ISA for an exploitation contract is approved assuming a review period of approximately one year. The toll treatment is expected to take place on a dedicated 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.

Strategic Alliances and Key Commercial Agreements

Allseas Agreements

On March 29, 2019, we entered into a Strategic Alliance Agreement with Allseas, whereby the parties will conduct project development of an integrated offshore nodule collection system for use by our subsidiaries. As initially constituted, Allseas agreed to subscribe for (i) 6,666,667 DeepGreen Common Shares for a purchase price of $20,000,000 in cash (the “Subscription”), the entire amount of which was funded, and (ii) an additional 10,000,000 DeepGreen Common Shares in exchange for services rendered by Allseas in respect of the contemplated pilot mining test system (the “PMTS”), which would be designed, built and tested by Allseas. The 10,000,000 shares would only be issued upon completion of the pilot mining test in the CCZ using the PMTS (the “Success Fee Shares”), along with an additional $30 million cash success fee that would be payable simultaneously therewith. The Strategic Alliance Agreement also contemplated that the parties would enter into other commercial arrangements following the successful completion of the pilot trials of the PMTS in the CCZ.

On July 8, 2019, we and Allseas entered into the Pilot Mining Test Agreement (the “PMTA”), which governed the terms, design specifications, procedures, and timetable under which Allseas agreed to complete and test the PMTS, to be used by NORI. The PMTA was subsequently amended on September 1, 2019, February 20, 2020, March 4, 2021, June 30, 2021 and February 8, 2023. The Strategic Alliance Agreement was also amended on March 4, 2021 (collectively with the PMTA amendment of the same date, the “Amendment”), which Amendment became effective upon closing of the Business Combination. Pursuant to the Amendment, the cash fee payable pursuant to the PMTA was amended such that we would pay to Allseas (i) $10,000,000 on June 30, 2021 (which we subsequently amended with Allseas to change to within 10 business days of the Closing of the Business Combination in a further amendment; this amount was paid on October 5, 2021), (ii) $10,000,000 on the later of January 1, 2022 and such time that confirmation is received with respect to the successful completion of the North Sea drive test, which was paid on April 25, 2022, and (iii) $10,000,000 upon successful completion of the pilot trials in the CCZ using the PMTS which was settled through the issuance of 10 million Common Shares in February 2023, along with additional costs owed Allseas under the PMTA in 850,000 Common Shares, in each case, priced at $1.00 per share under the fifth amendment to the PMTA. Pursuant to the Amendment, except as provided therein, Allseas may not, without our prior written consent, terminate the Strategic Alliance Agreement or the PMTA before NORI receives an ISA exploitation contract.

The PMTA terminated by its terms upon the successful completion of the PMTS, whereas the overarching Strategic Alliance Agreement remains in place.

On March 16, 2022, NORI and Allseas entered into a non-binding term sheet for the development and operation of a commercial nodule collection system. The PMTS developed and tested by Allseas was expected to be upgraded to a commercial system with a targeted production capacity of at least 1.3 Mtpa of wet nodules (“Project Zero System”). NORI and Allseas intended to equally finance all costs related to developing and getting Project Zero System into production that were estimated at less than EUR100 million. It was anticipated that NORI will not have to make any Project Zero System-related payments to Allseas until later in 2023. Once in production, NORI expected to pay Allseas a nodule collection and transshipment fee estimated at approximately EUR 150 per wet tonne in the first year of operations and expected to be reduced by more than 20% in the following years as Allseas scaled up production to at least 1.3 Mtpa of wet nodules.

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Subject to the necessary regulatory approvals, Allseas and NORI also intend to investigate acquiring a second production vessel similar to the Hidden Gem, a further Samsung 10000, with the potential for it to be engineered to support a production rate of 3.0 Mtpa of wet nodules.

Following the successful completion of the NORI Area D pilot collection system trials in November 2022 and subsequent analysis of pilot data, the parties reviewed Project Zero System production target increases, system design changes and associated cost estimates revisions. In August 2023, we announced that Allseas and NORI were executing on a plan designed based on Allseas’ estimates to increase the maximum production capacity of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System from the previous estimate of 1.3 million wet tonnes per annum to up to an estimated 3.0 million wet tonnes per annum in stepped increments, a potential increase of 130%. The upgrades are expected to include the addition of a second collector vehicle, the use of a wider diameter riser pipe from the seafloor to the surface, implementation of a larger compressor spread and improvements to the system designed to further mitigate its environmental impacts.

System capacity is expected to be increased over time as production and experience milestones are met, which we believe will help manage operational risk, minimize up-front capital expenditure requirements and allow for staged increases in capacity as environmental review thresholds are met.

The work program with Allseas during 2023 focused on the review of the pilot nodule collection system performance, review of operational issues and identification of potential improvements to overall system performance. Key aspects include scaling the technology to meeting the commercial production rates of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System and integration of the scaled-up technology into the Hidden Gem. Engineering scope has been split into six major work packages: (1) collector, (2) vertical transport system (riser and riser handling equipment), (3) storage & offloading, (4) control & automation, (5) electrical & instrumentation, and (6) flow assurance. Engineering studies have been progressed on the offshore nodule offloading and transportation system, including hydrodynamic simulations and dynamic positioning analysis of the vessel-to-vessel interface during the nodule offloading activity. In line with engineering milestones, design reviews have been conducted at the Allseas office in Delft, Netherlands. The design reviews are attended by TMC, Allseas and third-party consultants. Regular meetings are held between TMC and Allseas project teams covering engineering, procurement, scheduling & estimating, operational planning (including health & safety aspects) and environment.

Further to our non-binding term sheet entered into in March 2022 with Allseas, Allseas is proceeding with system design and TMC continues its discussions with Allseas regarding the specifics of these upgrades, associated cost estimates and operational implications of the continued development of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System. We anticipate reaching definitive agreements on commercial terms and key terms around continued development and commercial operations with Allseas before the end of 2024.

In addition, in August 2023, we entered into an Exclusive Vessel Use Agreement with Allseas pursuant to which Allseas will give exclusive use of the Hidden Gem to us in support of the development of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System until the system is completed or December 31, 2026, whichever is earlier. In consideration of the exclusivity term, we have issued 4.15 million Common Shares (valued at $6.5 million) to Allseas on August 14, 2023. We expect that the definitive agreement with Allseas discussed above will extend the exclusive use of the Hidden Gem.

There can be no assurances, however, that we will enter into definitive agreements with Allseas contemplated by the non-binding term sheet in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those set forth in the non-binding term sheet, or that if such definitive agreements are entered into by us that the proposed commercial systems and second production vessel will be successfully developed or operated in a particular time period, or at all.

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Offtake Agreements

On May 25, 2012, our wholly-owned subsidiary, DGE, and Glencore, entered into a copper offtake agreement and a separate nickel offtake agreement (together, the “Glencore Offtake Agreements”), pursuant to which Glencore has the right to purchase from DGE 50% of the annual quantity of copper material and 50% of the annual quantity of nickel material produced by DGE from ore derived from the NORI Contract Area at a processing plant directly owned or controlled by DGE. Pursuant to the Glencore Offtake Agreements, for London Metal Exchange (“LME”) Codelco registered Grade “A” copper cathodes, the delivered price is the official LME Copper Grade “A” Cash Settlement quotation as published in the London Metal Bulletin averaged over the month of shipment or the following month at Glencore’s choice, plus the official long-term contract premium as announced annually by Codelco, basis CIF Main European Ports (Rotterdam, the Netherlands). For LME Registered Primary Nickel, the delivered price is the official LME Primary Nickel Cash Settlement averaged over the month of shipping or the following month at Glencore’s choice. For other copper-bearing material and other nickel-bearing material, the parties shall agree a price annually for the forthcoming calendar year on the basis of prevailing market prices for such copper products and such nickel products. The Glencore Offtake Agreements are for the life of the NORI Contract Area, and either party may terminate the agreement upon a material breach or insolvency of the other party. Glencore may also terminate either agreement by giving 12 months’ prior written notice. The Glencore Offtake Agreements do not extend to any other of our entities in the event other entities are the ultimate processing owners for metal products. The Glencore Offtake Agreements only apply with respect to metals processed and developed from the NORI areas that are processed by a facility owned or controlled by DGE and do not apply to other projects (including for example Marawa or TOML). Concurrent with entering into the Glencore Offtake Agreements, Glencore made an equity investment of $5 million into our Company.

Binding MoU with PAMCO

In November 2022, we signed a non-binding MoU with PAMCO to evaluate the toll treatment of an initial quantity of 1.3 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules per year at PAMCO’s Hachinohe, Japan smelting facility.  Potential progression to a NiCuCo matte product along with potentially higher throughputs were also included in the evaluation study. PAMCO successfully completed a pre-feasibility exercise pursuant to the non-binding MoU signed by the parties in November 2022.

In November 2023 TMC signed a binding MoU with PAMCO, where PAMCO must complete a feasibility study (expected to be completed during the third quarter of 2024) to toll treat 1.3 million tonnes of wet polymetallic nodules per year at its Hachinohe, Japan smelting facility which is expected to start in the second quarter of 2026, if we obtain an exploration contract from the ISA in a timely manner. The toll treatment is expected to take place on a dedicated 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 new binding MoU:

PAMCO, with our support, expects to complete the feasibility study by the third quarter of 2024;
We will provide PAMCO with the exclusive right to the first 1.3Mtpa of the expected 3Mtpa of wet nodule collection capacity of our first nodule collection system until completion of the feasibility study;
The parties will enter into good faith negotiations to finalize definitive processing agreements on completion of the feasibility study.

The PAMCO feasibility study is expected to confirm the operating parameters and product specifications for PAMCO’s dedicated production line and define the scope and execution plan for any additional equipment requirements, which are currently expected to be minor. An extended pilot demonstration program utilizing existing kilns and furnaces at PAMCO’s Hachinohe, Japan facility is expected to treat a 2,000 tonne sample of polymetallic nodules collected during the successful pilot nodule collector test completed by Allseas in November 2022 on the NORI Area D, with the goal of optimizing the furnace refractory selection and confirm commercial scale operating parameters such as tapping temperatures and dusting rates when treating nodules through the Hachinohe facility. The costs of processing polymetallic nodules will also be estimated to help finalize the definitive processing agreement.

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In parallel, PAMCO is continuing to study the addition of a converting facility to process the intermediate alloy to nickel-copper-cobalt matte, which is an upgraded intermediate battery supply chain feedstock. It is expected that the additional facility would be constructed once commercial processing of polymetallic nodules to alloy has been demonstrated.  

We expect this partnership to progress to a definitive agreement before the end of 2024, subject to successful feasibility study outcomes and agreement to mutually acceptable commercial terms.  There can be no assurance that we will enter into a definitive tolling agreement in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those set forth in the binding MoU, or that if a definitive tolling agreement is entered into by us or that the existing facility will be able to successfully process nodules in a particular time period, or at all.

Competition

The metals production industry is capital intensive and competitive. Production of battery materials and manganese alloys is largely dominated by Chinese or Chinese-funded competitors. These competitors may have greater financial resources, as well as other strategic advantages to operate, maintain, improve and possibly expand their facilities. Additionally, Chinese resources firms have historically been able to produce minerals and/or process metals from land-based operations in developing countries across the globe (e.g., cobalt in the DRC, nickel in Indonesia and the Philippines) at relatively low costs due to scale, efficiency and regulatory factors, including less stringent environmental and social regulations and lower labor and benefit costs. We may be unable to compete successfully with these and other competitors, including other land-based mining operations.

In addition to the three contracts held by our subsidiaries and partners, 16 other entities (ISA Member States and private companies sponsored by ISA Member States) currently hold ISA Exploration Contracts for polymetallic nodules in the CCZ, Western Pacific and Indian Ocean Basin. If and when they move into the exploitation phase, each of these contract-holders could become a potential competitor with respect to the collection of polymetallic nodules and the production of nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt products. Furthermore, several nation states are working on developing polymetallic nodule resources inside their Exclusive Economic Zones (“EEZs”), with the Cook Islands granting three exploration contracts for polymetallic nodules in February 2022.  

Beyond polymetallic nodules, nations like Norway, Japan, Cook Islands and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are exploring other types of deep-sea resources containing some of the metals contained in polymetallic nodules. There is increasing competition from new and existing marine mineral companies for the availability of marine exploration and support vessels, related marine equipment and specialized personnel, desirable exploration areas, suitable offshore collection and onshore processing equipment, and available capital. Some of our competitors may equally find more promising resources, identify or develop more economic technologies, enter into strategic partnerships that constrain our optionality, or may develop novel methods to collect nodules from the seafloor or process nodules into metals that are more economic than we currently contemplate.

Regulations

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

The Area is defined as the seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (UNCLOS Article 1).

The principal policy documents governing the Area, including the CCZ, include:

the UNCLOS, of 10 December 1982; and
the 1994 Implementation Agreement.

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UNCLOS deals with, among other things, navigational rights, territorial sea limits, exclusive economic zone jurisdiction, the continental shelf, freedom of the high seas, legal status of resources on the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, passage of ships through narrow straits, conservation and management of living marine resources in the high seas, protection of the marine environment, marine scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

Graphic

Part XI of UNCLOS and the 1994 Implementation Agreement deal with mineral exploration and collection in the international seabed, known as the Area, providing a framework for entities to obtain legal title to areas of the seafloor from the ISA for the purpose of exploration and eventually collection of resources. UNCLOS became effective on November 16, 1994. A subsequent agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS was adopted on July 28, 1994 and became effective on July 28, 1996. The 1994 Implementation Agreement and Part XI of UNCLOS are to be interpreted and applied together as a single instrument. As of February 6, 2024, UNCLOS had been signed by 168 States (countries) and the European Union.

International Seabed Authority

The ISA is an autonomous international organization established under UNCLOS and the 1994 Implementation Agreement to organize and control activities in the Area, particularly with a view to administering and regulating the development of the resources of the Area, in accordance with the legal regime established under UNCLOS and the 1994 Implementation Agreement. In so doing, the ISA has the mandate to regulate all mineral related activities in the Area for the benefit of humankind and ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed related activities. The ISA is comprised of UNCLOS signatories, 168 Member States, and the European Union. All parties to UNCLOS are members of the ISA. Two principal entities establish the policies and govern the work of the ISA: the Assembly, where all 169 members are represented (the “Assembly”), and a 36-member council elected by the Assembly (the “Council”). The Council has two advisory bodies: the Legal Technical Commission (LTC) (41 members), which advises the Council on matters relating to the exploration and collection of non-living marine resources, such as polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and the Finance Committee (15 members), which deals with budgetary and related matters.

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All rules, regulations, and procedures issued by the ISA to regulate prospecting, exploration, and collection of marine minerals are issued within a general legal framework established by UNCLOS and the 1994 Implementation Agreement. To date, the ISA has issued the following regulations (https://www.isa.org.jm/mining-code/Regulations):

The Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the CCZ (adopted July 13, 2000, as amended in 2013; the Regulations).
The Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Sulphides (adopted May 7, 2010).
The Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Cobalt-Rich Ferromanganese Crusts in the CCZ (July 2012).

No commercial polymetallic nodule collection operations have started anywhere in the world. Currently, exploration activities undertaken are aimed at gathering the necessary information on the location, quality and quantity of the minerals of the seabed as well as collecting the necessary environmental baseline information. To date, the ISA has approved 17 contracts in the CCZ for exploration of nodules, one in the Indian Ocean and one in the Western Pacific Ocean covering more than 1.35 million square kilometers of the seabed. This represents 0.3 percent of the world’s oceans seafloor. Twelve of these contracts are sponsored by developing countries (including the sponsors of our subsidiaries NORI — Nauru, and TOML — Tonga, and our partner Marawa which is sponsored by the Republic of Kiribati). Thirteen countries and one intergovernmental consortium currently have contracts for the exploration of polymetallic nodules, seven countries have contracts for the exploration of polymetallic sulphides, and five countries have contracts for the exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts. To date, no exploitation contracts for extracting minerals from the seafloor within the CCZ have been granted. The ISA is currently working on the development of a legal framework to regulate the commercialization of mineral development activities, as described below.

In 2014, the ISA completed a study looking at comparative extractive regulatory regimes. This was followed in March 2014 with a stakeholder survey seeking comments on what financial, environmental, and health and safety obligations should be included under the framework (ISA 2014).

In August 2017, the Council released the first Draft Regulations on Exploitation of Mineral Resources in the CCZ, as subsequently amended. In March 2019, the Council released the advance and unedited text (English only) of the Draft Regulations on Exploitation of Mineral Resources in the CCZ (ISBA/25/LTC/WP.1) (ISA, 2018). The revised draft exploitation regulations incorporated the consideration of requests addressed to the LTC by the Council during the first part of the 24th Session in March 2018, as well as certain comments by the Commission, and also reflected the responses to the first draft from stakeholder submissions. The exploitation regulations will create the legal and technical framework for collection and related operations. Finalization of the exploitation regulations remains subject to the decision of the members of the ISA. Final exploitation regulations must be adopted by the Council. The ISA was targeting to finalize these regulations by July 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted ISA meetings and discussions.

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The current proposed application process in the draft exploitation regulations consists of the following:

Graphic

We are still in the exploration phase of the project and have not yet obtained an exploitation contract from the ISA (“ISA Exploitation Contract”) to commence commercial-scale polymetallic nodule collection in the CCZ. An ISA exploitation contract application is comprised of several components, including: Certificate of Sponsorship, Mining Plan, Financing Plan, EIS, Emergency Response and Contingency Plan, Health and Safety Plan and maritime Security Plan, Training Plan, EMMP and Closure Plan. In addition, we do not have the applicable environmental and other permits required to build or modify and operate commercial scale polymetallic nodule processing and refining plants on land.

Section 1, paragraph 15 of the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the UNCLOS allows a member state whose national intends to apply for approval of a plan of work for exploitation to notify the ISA of such intention. This notice obliges the ISA to complete the adoption of exploitation regulations within two years of the request made by the member state.

On June 25, 2021, Nauru submitted its notice to the ISA requesting that it complete the adoption, by July 9, 2023, of rules, regulations and procedures necessary to facilitate the approval of plans of work for exploitation in the Area. The ISA did not complete the adoption of the rules, regulations and procedures by July 9, 2023, as required. At its July 2023 28th Session meeting, the ISA adopted a Council decision agreeing on a timeline and modalities of work until July 2024, with a view to adopt final exploitation regulations during the thirtieth ISA session in 2025. Although we believe that the ISA will adopt the exploitation regulations and any necessary rules, regulations and procedures to facilitate the approval of a plan of work for exploitation by the thirtieth session as the ISA has indicated, there can be no assurances that the adoption of these regulations will not be delayed or halted paused as a result of the actions of ISA member States. The Draft Regulations and several supporting standards and guidelines are at an advanced stage, but there remains uncertainty regarding the final form that these will take as well as the impact that such regulations, standards and guidelines will have on our ability to begin commercial operations in a timely manner, or at all. If the ISA Council has not completed the adoption of such regulations within the prescribed time and an application for approval of a plan of work for exploitation is pending, the ISA shall nonetheless consider and provisionally approve such a plan of work for exploitation based on: (i) the provisions of the UNCLOS; (ii) any rules, regulations and procedures that the ISA may have adopted provisionally, (iii) the basis of the norms contained in the UNCLOS and (iv) the terms and principles contained in the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI, including the principle of non-discrimination among contractors.  There can be no assurance that the ISA will provisionally approve our plan or that such provisional approval would lead to the issuance of an exploitation contract by the ISA.

On August 1, 2023, we announced that our subsidiary, NORI, intends to submit its application for an exploitation contract to the ISA following the July 2024 meetings of the ISA. NORI is conducting a post-collection test campaign, strengthening its environmental baseline data and its application for an exploitation contract. This timing allows the Council to meet three more times to continue negotiating and progressing the rules, regulations and procedures.

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Consistent with NORI’s rights under the UNCLOS, and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS (the Agreement), NORI reserves its right to submit an application for a plan of work for exploitation, which will be included as part of the application for an exploitation contract, prior to the ISA’s provisional adoption and approval of the exploitation regulations, the possibility of which was recognized in the ISA Council decisions ISBA/28/C/24 and ISBA/28/C/25, and to have that application considered and provisionally approved pursuant to Section 1, Paragraph 15 of the Annex to the Agreement.

At the third and final meeting of the 28th ISA Session in November 2023, the Council agreed to consolidate the text of the draft regulations. The main objective of such a consolidated text, is to better harmonize and clean the text based on negotiations of the interested stakeholders to date. The consolidated text will be the basis for the negotiations of the regulators in 2024.

The NORI Exploration Contract

In July 2011, our wholly-owned subsidiary, NORI, was granted a polymetallic nodule exploration contract by the ISA, providing it exclusive rights to explore 74,830 square kilometers in the CCZ pursuant to the NORI Exploration Contract (“NORI Exploration Contract”). The NORI Exploration Contract was approved by the Council on July 19, 2011, and entered into on July 22, 2011 between NORI and the ISA, and terminates on July 22, 2026, subject to extension.

The NORI Exploration Contract, which was granted pursuant to the ISA’s Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the CCZ (the “Regulations”), formalized a 74,830 square kilometers exploration area, has an initial term of 15 years (subject to renewal for successive five-year periods), and provides for certain obligations with respect to exploration, training, and other programs of activities for an initial five-year period. The NORI Exploration Contract also formalized the rights of NORI around future rights. Pursuant to the Regulations, NORI has the priority right to apply for an exploitation contract to collect polymetallic nodules in the same area (Regulation 24(2)). Such preference or priority may be withdrawn by the Council if the contractor has failed to comply with the requirements of its approved plan of work for exploration within the time period specified in a written notice or notices from the Council to the contractor indicating which requirements have not been complied with by the contractor. After a hearing process, the Council would be required to provide the reasons for its proposed withdrawal of preference or priority and shall consider any contractor’s response. The decision of the Council shall take account of that response and shall be based on substantial evidence.

On August 1, 2023, we announced that our subsidiary, NORI intends to submit its application for an exploitation contract to the ISA following the July 2024 meetings of the ISA.  To date, no exploitation contracts for extracting minerals from the international seafloor have been granted. The ISA is currently working on the development of a legal framework to regulate the exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the Area, as described above.

In 2021, NORI submitted a review of the implementation of the plan of work for the period from 2017 to 2021 to the ISA. The review included a proposed plan of work for the next five-year period from 2022 to 2026. On February 3, 2022, the ISA confirmed that the Secretariat and Commission had reviewed NORI’s report and noted that the program of activities for the next five-year period was acceptable.

The ISA Council may suspend or terminate the NORI Exploration Contract, without prejudice to any other rights that the ISA may have, if any of the following events should occur:

if, in spite of written warnings by the ISA, NORI has conducted its activities in such a way as to result in serious persistent and willful violations of the fundamental terms of the NORI Exploration Contract, Part XI of UNCLOS, the 1994 Agreement and the rules, regulations and procedures of the ISA;
if NORI has failed to comply with a final binding decision of the dispute settlement body applicable to it; or
if NORI becomes insolvent or commits an act of bankruptcy or enters into any agreement for composition with its creditors or goes into liquidation or receivership, whether compulsory or voluntary, or petitions or applies to any tribunal for the appointment of a receiver or a trustee or receiver for itself or commences any proceedings relating to itself under any bankruptcy, insolvency or readjustment of debt law, whether now or hereafter in effect, other than for the purpose of reconstruction.

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Additionally, if the nationality or control of NORI changes or NORI’s sponsoring State, as defined in the Regulations, terminates its sponsorship and NORI does not obtain another sponsor meeting the requirements prescribed in the Regulations, then the NORI Exploration Contract will terminate.

The NORI Sponsorship Agreement

NORI is sponsored by Nauru pursuant to a certificate of sponsorship signed by the Government of Nauru on April 11, 2011. NORI is a Nauruan incorporated entity and is subject to applicable Nauruan legislation and regulations. In 2015, the Nauruan government established the Nauru Seabed Minerals Authority to regulate activities carried out by companies sponsored by Nauru.

Throughout the period of the NORI Exploration Contract, NORI must be sponsored by a State that is party to UNCLOS. If the nationality or control of NORI changes or NORI’s sponsoring State, as defined in the Regulations, terminates its sponsorship, NORI must promptly notify the ISA. In either event, if NORI does not obtain another sponsor meeting the requirements prescribed in the Regulations and fails to submit to the ISA a certificate of sponsorship for NORI in the prescribed form within six months, the NORI Exploration Contract will terminate.

On July 5, 2017, Nauru, the Nauru Seabed Minerals Authority and NORI entered into a sponsorship agreement (the “NORI Sponsorship Agreement”) formalizing certain obligations of the parties in relation to NORI’s exploration and potential collection of nodules within the NORI Contract Area of the CCZ. The NORI Sponsorship Agreement will remain in force for the duration of the 15-year NORI Exploration Contract and will automatically extend for a further 20 years upon NORI reaching the minimum recovery level under an ISA Exploitation Contract, unless earlier terminated by the ISA as a result of NORI’s breach of the NORI Exploration Contract or pursuant to its terms. Upon reaching the minimum recovery level within the tenement area, NORI will pay Nauru a seabed mineral recovery payment based on the polymetallic nodules recovered from the tenement area. In addition, NORI will pay an administration fee each year to Nauru for such administration and sponsorship, which is subject to review and increase in the event that NORI is granted an ISA Exploitation Contract. NORI has begun discussions with the Government of Nauru to renegotiate the existing sponsorship agreement and has committed to paying corporate income tax within Nauru.

During exploration, NORI is required to, among other things:

submit an annual report to the ISA;
meet certain performance and expenditure commitments;
pay an annual overhead charge to cover the costs incurred by the ISA in administering and supervising the contract;
implement training programs for personnel of the ISA and developing countries in accordance with an approved training program;
take measures to prevent, reduce, and control pollution and other hazards to the marine environment arising from its activities in the CCZ;
maintain appropriate insurance policies;
establish environmental baselines against which to assess the likely effects of its program of activities on the marine environment; and
establish and implement a program to monitor and report on such effects.

NORI is sponsored to carry out its mineral exploration activities in the CCZ by Nauru, pursuant to a certificate of sponsorship signed by the Government of Nauru on April 11, 2011. Sponsorship of an entity requires the sponsoring State to certify that it assumes responsibility for the entity’s activities in the CCZ in accordance with UNCLOS. NORI is a Nauruan incorporated entity and is subject to applicable Nauruan legislation and regulations.

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The TOML Exploration Contract

In March 2020, we acquired TOML from Deep Sea Mining Finance Limited, providing us with exclusive rights to explore a 74,713 square kilometers area of the CCZ seabed. TOML holds an exploration contract granted by the ISA and sponsored by the Kingdom of Tonga pursuant to the TOML Exploration Contract (“TOML Exploration Contract”). The plan of work was approved by the Council, acting on the recommendation of the LTC, on July 19, 2011. The TOML Exploration Contract was then signed on January 11, 2012 between TOML and the ISA and terminates on January 11, 2027, subject to a potential extension under the terms of the agreement.

The TOML Exploration Contract was granted pursuant to the ISA’s Regulations, as well as Article 153 of UNCLOS, and formalized a 74,713 square kilometers exploration area. The TOML Exploration Contract includes an initial term of 15 years, which may be extended under the contract, and a program of activities to be completed within the first five-year period of the term. The TOML Exploration Contract also formalized the rights of TOML around future rights. Pursuant to the Regulations, TOML has the priority right to apply for an ISA Exploitation Contract to collect polymetallic nodules in the same area (Regulation 24(2)). The Regulations state that a contractor who has an approved plan of work for exploration only shall have a preference and a priority among applicants submitting plans of work for collection of the same area and resources. Such preference or priority may be withdrawn by the Council if the contractor has failed to comply with the requirements of its approved plan of work for exploration within the time period specified in a written notice or notices from the Council to the contractor indicating which requirements have not been complied with by the contractor. After a hearing process, the Council shall provide the reasons for its proposed withdrawal of preference or priority and shall consider any contractor’s response. The decision of the Council shall take account of that response and shall be based on substantial evidence.

Under ISA requirements contractors are required to submit five-year work programs. The first TOML five-year work program was completed in 2016 and reviewed and accepted by the ISA in late 2016. In 2021, TOML submitted a review of the implementation of the plan of work for the period from 2017 to 2021 to the ISA. The review included a proposed plan of work for the next five-year period from 2022 to 2026.

On December 23, 2022, the ISA accepted TOML’s proposed program of activities for the 2022-2026 five-year period.

The ISA Council may suspend or terminate the TOML Exploration Contract, without prejudice to any other rights that the ISA may have, if any of the following events occur:

if, in spite of written warnings by the ISA, TOML has conducted its activities in such a way that results in serious persistent and willful violations of the fundamental terms of this contract, Part XI of UNCLOS, the 1994 Agreement and the rules, regulations and procedures of the ISA;
if TOML has failed to comply with a final binding decision of the dispute settlement body applicable to it;
if TOML becomes insolvent or commits an act of bankruptcy or enters into any agreement for composition with its creditors or goes into liquidation or receivership, whether compulsory or voluntary; or
petitions or applies to any tribunal for the appointment of a receiver or a trustee for itself or commences any proceedings relating to bankruptcy, insolvency or readjustment of debt law, whether now or hereafter in effect, other than for the purpose of reconstruction.

Additionally, if the nationality or control of TOML changes or TOML’s sponsoring State, as defined in the Regulations, terminates its sponsorship and TOML does not obtain another sponsor meeting the requirements prescribed in the Regulations, then the TOML Exploration Contract will terminate.

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The TOML Sponsorship Agreement

On March 8, 2008, Tonga and TOML entered into the TOML Sponsorship Agreement formalizing certain obligations of the parties in relation to TOML’s exploration and potential exploitation of a proposed application to the ISA (subsequently granted) known as the TOML Area. TOML updated the sponsorship agreement with Tonga in September 2021. Unless otherwise terminated by the parties, the term for the TOML Sponsorship Agreement is for the duration of TOML’s ISA Exploration Contract and will automatically extend for a further 25 years upon TOML being granted an ISA Exploitation Contract. Upon reaching the minimum recovery level within the tenement area, TOML has agreed to pay Tonga a seabed mineral recovery payment based on the polymetallic nodules recovered from the tenement area. In addition, TOML will pay an administration fee each year to Tonga for such administration and sponsorship, which is subject to review and increase in the event that TOML is granted an ISA Exploitation Contract.  TOML expects to renegotiate the existing sponsorship agreement with Tonga prior to entering into operations in the TOML area and has committed to paying corporate income tax within Tonga.

Marawa Agreements

On March 17, 2012, our wholly-owned subsidiary, DGE, entered into an Option Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) with Marawa and Kiribati. In consideration of the $250,000 option fee, Marawa granted DGE an option to purchase tenements, as may be granted to Marawa by the ISA or any other regulatory body, for $300,000, or in consideration of DGE waiving any loan and other debt obligation pursuant to the Services Agreement (as defined below) if a default event occurs. The exercise period for the option is a maximum of 40 years after the date of the execution of the Option Agreement.

On July 26, 2012, the ISA Council approved a plan of work for exploration submitted by Marawa covering the Marawa Contract Area. Due to uncertainty of the economic potential of the Marawa Contract Area, Marawa is currently considering its options and expects to finalize its decision in 2024. Marawa delayed certain work programs until it determines how it will move forward.

On October 1, 2013, DGE entered into an agreement (the “Services Agreement”) with the Republic of Kiribati and Marawa granting DGE the exclusive right for 40 years to carry out exploration and collection in the Marawa Contract Area as well as purchase polymetallic nodules collected from the Marawa Contract Area. The Marawa Exploration Contract was signed on January 19, 2015. To date, limited offshore marine resource definition activities in the Marawa Contract Area have occurred. We are collaborating with Marawa to assess the viability of any potential project in the Marawa Contract Area, although the timing of such assessment is uncertain.  Marawa has delayed certain of its efforts in the Marawa Contract Area while it determines how it will move forward with additional assessment work.

DGE has the right to terminate the Services Agreement for convenience at any time at its election by giving written notice to Marawa and Kiribati and such termination shall take effect two months following the date of the termination notice, provided that DGE shall pay to the ISA on behalf of Marawa the fees or payments legally owed to the ISA by Marawa (including the Annual ISA Exploration Fee and ISA Royalties and Taxes) that are outstanding at the date of termination or that are incurred within 12 months of the date of such termination, provided that Marawa shall have an obligation to minimize such fees and payments to the extent practicable after the date of said termination. DGE and Marawa have considered the potential to amend the current contractual arrangements to provide additional mutual benefits in the conduct of operations, though no assurances may be given that any changes will be agreed.

Royalties and taxes

Royalties and taxes payable on any future production from the CCZ will be stipulated in the ISA’s exploitation regulations. While the rates of payments are yet to be set by the ISA, the 1994 Implementation Agreement (Section 8(1)(b)) prescribes that the rates of payments “shall be within the range of those prevailing in respect of land-based mining of the same or similar minerals in order to avoid giving deep seabed miners an artificial competitive advantage or imposing on them a competitive disadvantage.”

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An open-ended working group has been formed and has met numerous times to discuss potential ISA royalty and sponsoring State taxation regimes supported by modelling conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A final royalty and payment regime has not been agreed. However, recent discussions centered on a 2.5% ad valorem royalty on the gross metal value (“GMV”) of nodule ore for the first five years of commercial production, thereafter increasing to 4.5% if GMV is equal or lower than $510 per dry tonne of nodules and scaling linearly to 9.5% if GMV is at or above $720 per dry tonne of nodules.  An additional ad valorem environmental levy has also been discussed. The economic analysis included in the initial assessment contained in the NORI Technical Report Summary was based on a slightly different set of assumptions about ISA Royalty that were in use back in 2021: namely, 2% of GMV for the first five years, increasing to 6% thereafter plus 1% environmental levy. Additional discussions have considered capping any proposed environmental levy once an agreed total value has been reached and might no longer be collected once sufficient funds are in trust. We can provide no assurances that any such royalties or levies will not be greater than those discussed and could be significantly greater.

Under the NORI Sponsorship Agreement between Nauru and NORI and under the TOML Sponsorship Agreement between Tonga and TOML, upon reaching a minimum recovery level within the tenement areas, NORI and TOML have agreed to pay Nauru and Tonga a seabed mineral recovery payment for polymetallic nodules recovered from the tenement area, annually adjusted (from year 5) on a compounding basis based on the official inflation rate in the U.S. In addition, NORI and TOML will pay an administration fee each year to Nauru and Tonga for such administration and sponsorship, which is subject to review and increase in the event that NORI or TOML are granted an ISA Exploitation Contract.  NORI and TOML have both committed to paying corporate income tax within Nauru and Tonga, respectively.

Environmental Regulation

The ISA is mandated through UNCLOS to “preserve and protect the marine environment” while developing the resources within the Area. Given the location of the NORI Contract Area, the ISA is responsible for assessing any ESIA prepared by NORI and for granting the relevant permits.

The ISA has issued Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules (adopted on July 13, 2000, updated on July 25, 2013). The regulations are complemented by the LTC’s recommendations for the guidance of contractors on assessing the environmental impacts of exploration. The exploitation regulations on deep-seabed collection will be complemented by various standards and guidelines, and thresholds. The ISA is currently developing these standards and guidelines, and thresholds which are expected to be finalized by the LTC and adopted by the Council. The ISA has divided the required standards and guidelines in three phases.

Phase 1: Standards and guidelines deemed necessary to be in place by the time of adoption of the draft regulations on exploitation.
Phase 2: Standards and guidelines deemed necessary to be in place prior to the receipt of an application of a plan of work for exploitation.
Phase 3: Standards and guidelines deemed necessary to be in place before commercial mining activities commence in the Area.

Ten standards and guidelines have been prepared in Phase 1, provided to stakeholders for comment, reviewed and amended by the LTC and provided to Council for consideration and approval. Additional standards and guidelines will be drafted as part of the development of Phase 2 and 3.

Although the environmental impact review process has not yet been finalized, all contractors have been made aware that the ISA requires the completion of baseline studies and EIA, culminating in an EIS for proposed commercial operations, prior to collection.  An EIS and an EMMP, will be required as part of the application for an ISA Exploitation Contract for operations in the CCZ. Environmental and social baseline studies are being conducted and NORI has engaged several leading deep-sea research institutions and scientists to contribute to our environmental and social impact assessment program, consisting of over 100 discrete studies.

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NORI’s offshore exploration campaigns have included sampling to support environmental studies, collection of high-resolution imagery, full column physical and chemical oceanographic data and environmental baseline studies.  Our last offshore campaign to collect environmental baseline data was completed in 2022.  An integrated collector test involving trialing of collector vehicle and riser system took place in 2022.  The environmental impacts of this test were monitored from a separate research vessel. An additional environmental campaign was executed in 2023 to return to the site 12 months after the test. Data collected from the test monitoring campaign and 12-month revisit campaigns will be used to forecast the impacts for a full-scale commercial operation in NORI’s EIS.  NORI intends to manage the project under the governance of an environmental management system (“EMS”), which is to be developed in accordance with the international EMS standard, ISO 14001:2004. The EMS will provide the overall framework for the environmental management and monitoring plans that are required.

NORI’s EMMP will specify the objectives and purpose of all monitoring requirements, the components to be monitored, frequency of monitoring, methods of monitoring, analysis required in each monitoring component, monitoring data management and reporting. The EMMP will be submitted to the ISA as part of the ISA Exploitation Contract application.

Pursuant to Article 165(2)(b) of the Convention and Paragraph 11(a) of the 1994 Agreement, an application for a Plan of Work is first reviewed by the LTC and a recommendation concerning the approval of the Plan of Work is submitted by the LTC to the Council. Rule 44 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure requires decision making by consensus. If all efforts to reach consensus have been exhausted, however, then a decision by voting shall be taken by a majority of members present and voting. A proposed timeline for the consideration of a Plan of Work by the Commission was developed in “Draft guideline on the preparation and assessment of an application for the approval of a Plan of Work for exploitation” (ISBA/27/C/3).

If a positive recommendation is submitted by the Commission to the Council concerning the approval of a Plan of Work, the Council is required to approve the Commission’s recommendation unless a two-thirds majority of its members present and voting, including a majority of members present and voting in each of the chambers of the Council, decides to disapprove the Plan of Work. If the Council does not take a decision on the Commission’s recommendation within 60 days, the recommendation shall be deemed to have been approved by the Council.

In addition, the sponsoring State has a responsibility to put in place legislation to ensure the entity it has sponsored complies with UNCLOS and ISA rules and regulations. Nauru implemented the Nauru International Seabed Minerals Act in 2015 which NORI is required to comply with.

NORI’s assessment is that it is in compliance with existing exploration permits and contracts. In addition to working on key engineering aspects of the project such as designing the final nodule collector and the dewatering facility, NORI is also continuing the following tasks:

delineating nodule mineralization;
characterizing the nature of the seabed, water column and biology;
finalizing environmental baseline studies and impact assessments;
characterizing the nature of any materials returned to the environment;
developing oceanographic and physical information to inform models (e.g., sediment plume models); and
developing other plans, including the EMMP and the various subordinate plans.

The potential future onshore environmental impacts have not yet been assessed because the processing plants that we expect to use through a tolling or other arrangement have not been finalized, and the locations and host countries (and hence regulatory regime) have not been confirmed. The planned metallurgical process is expected to generate near-zero solid waste products.  The deleterious elements’ (for example, cadmium and arsenic) content of the nodules is understood to be very low, indicating that with careful management, the environmental impacts of the processing operation are expected to be low.

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Intellectual Property

Our success depends in part upon our ability to obtain and maintain patent protection of our core technology and intellectual property, as well as that of our strategic partners, and particularly that our freedom to operate is not restricted by patents lodged by competitors or other third parties. Moreover, we rely on a combination of trade secret protection, non-disclosure and licensing agreements and trademarks to establish and protect our proprietary intellectual property. To this end, we maintain a portfolio of issued patents and pending patent applications, which relate to offshore collection systems and to the processing of polymetallic nodules for recovering metals. As we rely on a number of patents to establish and protect our intellectual property, we have obtained and filed patent applications in countries throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

We cannot conclusively state that any pending applications, existing or future intellectual property will be definitively useful in protecting or promoting our business and growth plans. Please see the section entitled “Risk Factors” for additional information on the risks associated with our intellectual property strategy and portfolio.

Human Capital

As of December 31, 2023, we employed forty-six (46) employees and contractors. None of our staff are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Attracting Talent. Our team is comprised of highly skilled individuals from a variety of fields. Geographically, our staff are located in Tonga, Nauru, U.S., Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. We are committed to attracting, developing and retaining world-class talent that is inclusive of a diverse range of perspectives, age, gender, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical capability, neurological difference, ethnicity and belief. Our goal is to develop cultural competency by seeking knowledge, increasing awareness, modeling respect and promoting inclusion.  

People Engagement. As a company working to pioneer a new industry and new ways of doing things, our success depends on attracting and retaining strong, independent, entrepreneurial, and multi-talented team members capable of dealing with high levels of uncertainty and adversity. Our team is distributed across several continents and several time zones, with remote working being the norm for most of our staff and multi-week offshore campaigns being the norm for our offshore team. Despite physical and temporal separation, we maintain a strong sense of cohesion by attracting people who are intrinsically motivated by the company’s purpose and core values, cultivating a flat organizational structure and deep care for each other. We rely on regular management and company meetings, ongoing communication flows across different technology platforms, frequent ad hoc video communication and creating opportunities for in-person gatherings. We offer our team members flexible work schedules and autonomy in managing their time while encouraging them to set boundaries between work on our shared mission and their home lives.

Compensation and Benefits. We compensate our staff competitively, striving to be in the 50th-60th percentile of our peers for total compensation and benefits. In addition to salaries, our compensation and benefits program includes annual discretionary bonuses, equity awards, an employee stock purchase plan, a 401(k) contribution/superannuation or RRSP benefit contribution (as applicable jurisdictionally), healthcare and insurance benefits, health savings and flexible spending accounts. Our annual equity compensation is focused on company priorities that we believe create long-term value for our stakeholders.

Environment, Health & Safety (EHS). Our EHS vision is to fully integrate environmental, health and safety into our operations, and to create a workplace free of incidents. In 2023, we relied on the EHS programs of our partners Allseas and a new offshore support service provider to conduct our operations in a safe manner and in compliance with applicable safety laws, rules and regulations. These all involve EHS systems incorporating thorough planning, risk assessment and disciplined implementation of controls as well as culturally-based safety observations systems like safe act observations and obligation of “stop work if it is unsafe to proceed”.

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Available Information

Our internet address is https://themetals.co, to which we regularly post copies of our press releases as well as additional information about us. Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and all amendments to those reports, are available to you free of charge through the Investors section of our website as soon as reasonably practicable after such materials have been electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. The SEC maintains an internet site (http://www.sec.gov) that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. We include our website address in this Annual Report only as an inactive textual reference. Information contained in our website does not constitute a part of this Annual Report or our other filings with the SEC.

Corporate Information

TMC is a corporation existing under the laws of British Columbia, Canada. TMC’s registered office is currently located at 595 Howe Street, 10th Floor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6C 2T5, and its telephone number is: (604) 631-3115.

Item 1A.RISK FACTORS

Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties that you should be aware of in evaluating our business. If any such risks and uncertainties actually occur, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. The risks described below are not the only risks that we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us, or that we currently deem to be immaterial may also materially adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. The risk factors described below should be read together with the other information set forth in this Annual Report, including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes, as well as in other documents that we file with the SEC.

Summary of the Material Risks Associated with Our Business

These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:

Our business is subject to numerous regulatory uncertainties which, if not resolved in our favor, would have a material adverse impact on our business.
Our resource development activities are subject to changes in government regulation and political instability.
Changes to any of the laws, rules, regulations or policies to which we are subject could have a significant impact on our business.
Our exploration, collecting, shipping, processing and refining activities are subject to extensive and costly environmental requirements, and current and future laws, regulations, and permits may impose significant costs, liabilities, or obligations, or could limit or prevent our ability to continue our operations as currently contemplated or to undertake new operations.
There can be no assurance that the Environmental Impact Assessment Post Collector Test will be successful.
We may become subject to environmental liabilities as a result of noncompliance or newly imposed regulations.
The grade and quality of the polymetallic nodule deposits that we intend to develop are estimates, and there are no guarantees that such deposits will be suitable for collecting or commercialization.
No seafloor polymetallic nodule deposit has ever been commercially collected, and our offshore collection technology and development plans and processes may not be sufficient to accomplish our objectives.
Mineral resource estimates from the contract areas of NORI and TOML are only estimates.
Our business is subject to significant risks, and we may never develop minerals in sufficient grade or quantities to justify commercial operations.
Uncertainty in our estimates of polymetallic nodule deposits could result in lower-than-expected revenues and higher costs.
We operate in a highly competitive industry, and there are no assurances that our efforts will be successful.
The prevailing market prices of nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt, and other commodities will have a material impact on our ability to achieve commercial success.
We may be adversely affected by fluctuations in demand for nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt, and other commodities.
We may experience difficulty in creating market acceptance for a novel manganese product.
Negative perceptions related to the collection of polymetallic nodules could have a material adverse effect on our business.

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Offshore nodule collection, shipping and onshore processing and refining operations pose inherent risks and costs that may negatively impact our business.
Our business is contingent on our ability to successfully identify, collect, ship and process polymetallic nodules, and in doing so, we will need to rely on certain existing and future strategic relationships, some of which we may be unable to maintain and/or develop.
Some of the offshore equipment that we will need to accomplish our objectives has not been manufactured and/or tested.
Our business is substantially dependent on our strategic relationship with Allseas.
The polymetallic nodules that we may recover will require specialized treatment and processing, and there is no certainty that such processes will result in a recovery of metals that is consistent with our expectations, or that we will be able to develop or otherwise access processing plants that are suitable for our purposes.
Our exploration and polymetallic nodule collecting activities may be affected by natural hazards, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Actual capital costs, financing strategies, operating costs, production and economic returns may differ significantly from those we have anticipated and there can be no assurance that any future development activities will result in profitable metal production operations.
We have a limited operating history, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to commercially develop our resource areas or achieve profitability in the future.
We depend on key personnel for the success of our business. The loss of key personnel or the hiring of ineffective personnel could negatively impact our operations and profitability.
We are dependent upon information technology systems, which are subject to cyber threats, disruption, damage and failure.
Our business is subject to a variety of risks, some of which may not be covered by our future or existing insurance policies.
We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property rights. If we fail to adequately enforce or defend our intellectual property rights, our business may be harmed.
If we infringe, or are accused of infringing, on the intellectual property rights of third parties, it may increase our costs or prevent us from being able to commercialize new products.
We may issue additional Common Shares or other equity securities without shareholder approval, which would dilute your ownership interests and may depress the market price of our Common Shares and sales of a substantial amount of our Common Shares may cause the price of our Common Shares to fall.
If our outstanding warrants are exercised, the number of shares eligible for future resale in the public market will increase and result in dilution to our shareholders.
We are involved in class action and securities litigation that may adversely affect us, and we may not be successful in our litigation related to non-performing Private Investment in Public Equity (“PIPE”) investors.
Our business is capital intensive, and we will be required to raise additional funds in the future in order to accomplish our objectives.
We may incur debt in the future, and our ability to satisfy our obligations thereunder remains subject to a variety of factors, many of which are not within our control.
An active trading market for our Common Shares and warrants may not be sustained, which would adversely affect the liquidity and price of our securities.
There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with the continued listing standards of Nasdaq.
We have identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting. If we are unable to develop and maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results in a timely manner, which may adversely affect investor confidence in us and materially and adversely affect our business and operating results and the value of our common shares and we may face litigation as a result thereof.
We are exposed to risks in our international operations, which could adversely affect our business.
We may be classified as a PFIC in any taxable year, which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. holders.

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I.    Regulatory and Environmental Risks.

Our business is subject to numerous regulatory uncertainties which, if not resolved in our favor, would have a material adverse impact on our business.

On March 4, 2023 the United Nations finalized the UN High Seas Treaty. The treaty does not replace or amend UNCLOS, or the authority of the ISA, and must be interpreted consistently with the rights granted by the Convention.

To date, no commercial collection (also referred to as “mining,” “exploitation” or “harvesting”) of nodules has occurred on the seafloor in the area of the high seas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (the “Area”), which includes the CCZ. Moreover, despite the release by the ISA of the Draft Regulations on Exploitation of Mineral Resources (the “Draft Regulations”), finalization of such regulations remains subject to approval and adoption by the ISA.  Once adopted, these regulations will add to the legal and technical framework for exploitation of the polymetallic nodules in the NORI, TOML and Marawa contract areas.

Section 1, paragraph 15 of the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS allows a member state whose national intends to apply for approval of a plan of work for exploitation to notify the ISA of such intention. This notice obliges the ISA to complete the adoption of exploitation regulations within two years of the request made by the member state.

On June 25, 2021, Nauru submitted such a notice, with an effective date of July 9, 2021, to the ISA requesting that it complete the adoption of rules, regulations and procedures (“RRPs” or the “Mining Code”) necessary to facilitate the approval of plans of work for exploitation in the Area. As a result of that notice the ISA was required to adopt the relevant RRPs for exploitation by July 9, 2023. The ISA, however, did not adopt the RRPs for exploitation by the July 9, 2023 deadline. At its July 2023 session, the ISA released a road map for the finalization of the Mining Code, with a view to its adoption during the 30th session of the ISA in 2025, with the potential for earlier adoption during the 29th session of the ISA in 2024 if the Mining Code is ready for adoption by that time. The road map includes three scheduled ISA Council meetings through July 2024 to elaborate the Mining Code. Although we believe the ISA will adopt the Mining Code, there can be no assurances that the Mining Code will be adopted within these timelines, or at all, as a result of actions of ISA member States or otherwise. For example, 21 ISA member States out of the 169 ISA members have expressed reservations about the commercialization of seafloor mineral resources and have called for a ban, moratorium, or precautionary pause on the commercialization of these resources. In addition, although the Draft Regulations and several supporting standards and guidelines are at an advanced stage, there remains uncertainty regarding the final form that these will take, as well as the impact that such regulations, standards and guidelines will have on our ability to meet our objectives.

As the ISA Council did not complete the adoption and elaboration of the Mining Code by the prescribed deadline of July 9, 2023, pursuant to Section 1, Paragraph 15(c) of the Annex to the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS, if an application for a plan of work for exploitation is now submitted to the ISA, the ISA is nonetheless required to consider and provisionally approve such a plan of work based on: (i) the provisions of the UNCLOS; (ii) any rules, regulations and procedures that the ISA may have adopted provisionally, (iii) the basis of the norms contained in the UNCLOS and (iv) the terms and principles contained in the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI, including the principle of non-discrimination among contractors.

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NORI intends to submit an application to the ISA for an exploitation contract, which will include a plan of work for exploitation for NORI Area D following the conclusion of the July 2024 meeting of the ISA’s 29th session. If the ISA has not adopted the final Mining Code by the time NORI submits this application, we believe that the ISA will review and provisionally approve the plan of work for exploitation included therein pursuant to Section 1, Paragraph 15(c) of the Annex to the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS discussed above. The ISA released its road map to finalize the Mining Code at its July 2023 session, however, it also stated that the commercial exploitation of mineral resources in the ISA’s jurisdictional area should not be carried out in the absence of RRPs relating to exploitation. In addition, there can be no assurances that the ISA will come to a consensus as to the interpretation of Section 1, Paragraph 15(c) of the Annex to the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS. Although we believe the ISA will accept and consider an application for a plan of work for exploitation in the absence of the final Mining Code, there is no consensus within the ISA as to the process to be followed for its consideration of such an application, including the involvement of the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission and whether and how long the ISA could delay its consideration of an application past the proscribed 60-day period. As a result, and in light of some ISA members States calling for a ban, moratorium or precautionary pause on the commercialization of seafloor mineral resources, there can be no assurance that the ISA will provisionally approve our plan of work for exploitation, within one year from submission thereof, or at all, or that such provisional approval would lead to the issuance of an exploitation contract with the ISA.

The collection of polymetallic nodules within the CCZ, where our exploration areas are located, will require approval of an ISA Exploitation Contract (which will authorize commercial collection activities). As part of the application for an ISA Exploitation Contract, all contractors are required to complete baseline studies and an ESIA, culminating in an EIS, prior to collecting nodules at a commercial scale. The EIS would be accompanied by an EMMP which is expected to specify the objectives and purpose of all monitoring requirements, the components to be monitored, frequency of monitoring, methods of monitoring, analysis required in each monitoring component, monitoring data management and reporting.

In order to move our exploration projects into commercial production, our wholly-owned subsidiaries, NORI and TOML will each need to conclude an exploitation contract with the ISA, as will our partner, Marawa, in addition to obtaining related permits that may be required by our commercial partners. There can be no assurance that the ISA will approve our application for a plan of work for exploitation and issue an exploitation contract to our subsidiaries in a timely manner or at all. Even if the ISA timely evaluates such applications(s), our subsidiaries may be required to submit a supplementary EIS or perform additional studies or campaigns before obtaining approval. As such, there is a risk that an exploitation contract may not be granted by the ISA, may not be granted on a timely basis, thereby delaying our potential timeline for commercial exploitation, or may be granted on uneconomic terms.

Similarly, with respect to sponsoring State regulation, no assurance can be given that new rules and regulations will not be enacted or that existing rules and regulations will not be applied in a manner that would limit or curtail production or development by our subsidiaries. Amendments to current laws and regulations governing the operations and activities of deep-sea mineral resources companies, or changes in interpretation thereto, or the unwillingness of countries throughout the world to enforce such laws and regulations, could have a material adverse impact on our business, and could cause increases in exploration expenses, capital expenditures, production costs, or put the security of our equipment at risk to activism or piracy. Such amendments could also cause reductions in our future production, or the delay or abandonment in the development of our polymetallic mineral resource properties. There can be no certainty that actions by governmental and regulatory authorities, including changes in regulation, taxation and other fiscal regimes, will not adversely impact our projects or our business. Further, our operations depend on the continuation of the sponsorship agreements between our subsidiaries NORI and TOML and each of their host Sponsoring States, Tonga and Nauru, respectively. Each subsidiary has been registered and incorporated within such host nation and each host nation has maintained effective control, supervision, regulation, and sponsorship over the conduct of such subsidiary. While we have beneficial ownership over such subsidiaries, each subsidiary operates under the regulation and sponsorship of Nauru and Tonga. If such arrangement is challenged, or sponsorship is terminated, we may have to restructure the ownership or operations of such subsidiary to ensure continued State sponsorship. Failure to maintain sponsorship, or secure new state sponsorship, will have a material impact on such subsidiary and on our overall business and operations.

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While the rates of payments are yet to be set by the ISA, the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the UNCLOS prescribes a relevant framework that the rates of payments “shall be within the range of those prevailing in respect of land-based mining of the same or similar minerals in order to avoid giving deep seabed miners an artificial competitive advantage or imposing on them a competitive disadvantage.” The ISA has held workshops with stakeholders to discuss and seek comments on the potential financial regime for the collecting of polymetallic nodules in the CCZ. There can be no assurance that the ISA will put in place a Mining Code in a timely manner or at all. Such regulations may also impose burdensome obligations or restrictions on us, and/or may contain terms that do not enable us to develop our projects.

Our resource development activities are subject to changes in government regulation and political instability.

Parties carrying out exploration and collection operations in the CCZ must be sponsored by a State that is a member of the ISA. The Sponsoring States of our subsidiaries NORI and TOML are Nauru and Tonga, respectively. In addition, our subsidiary, DGE, has an exclusive contract with Marawa, which is sponsored by Kiribati, that permits DGE to conduct activities in connection with the exploration contract held by Marawa with the ISA. If any of these countries cease such sponsorship, our subsidiaries or their partners (as applicable) would need to seek sponsorship elsewhere, which could impact our operations as a group.

There is a risk that a State sponsoring activities in a project area ceases to be a sponsor, or is not permitted to be a sponsor, or that NORI and TOML cease to remain as sponsored contractors by such State; and if an agreement cannot be reached with a substitute sponsoring State, or if we are unable to transfer our sponsorship to another State, such subsidiary could be forced to cease activities in the CCZ.

Additionally, there is little jurisprudence or interpretative guidance regarding the application of the sponsorship regulations that are applicable to our business. For example, with respect to the question over the regulation of which State can impact the activities of any contractor (such as NORI or TOML), we have taken the view that incorporation, registration and the grant of nationality are critical factors, amongst others, notwithstanding the beneficial ownership of a subsidiary by its parent (“beneficial ownership”). While this position has not been challenged by our Sponsoring States or the ISA, certain organizations that oppose the deep-sea polymetallic nodule exploration and collecting industry have advocated for the use of a beneficial ownership test for state sponsorship, and there are no guarantees that our interpretation will be universally accepted in the future.

The mineral exploration activities of our subsidiaries and their future project development prospects could be affected in varying degrees by political instability and changes in government regulation relating to foreign investment and the deep-sea polymetallic collecting business, including expropriation. Operations may also be affected in varying degrees by possible natural disasters in the region, terrorism, military conflict, crime, piracy, fluctuations in currency rates, and high inflation. In addition, from time to time, governments may nationalize private businesses, including companies such as ours. There can be no assurance that the governments of countries where we or our affiliates or third-party contractors operate or the governments with which our subsidiaries work in the CCZ will not nationalize companies such as ours and our assets in the future or impose burdensome obligations or restrictions. There can also be no assurance that the ISA will not impose burdensome obligations or restrictions on our business or our projects (or those of our affiliates and third-party contractors), or that they will not implement policies or regulations that would prevent us from accomplishing our objectives.

Changes to any of the laws, rules, regulations or policies to which we are subject could have a significant impact on our business.

Changes to any of the laws, rules, regulations, taxation or other policies to which we are subject could have a significant impact on our business. There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with any future laws, rules, regulations and policies. Failure to comply with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and policies may subject us to civil or regulatory proceedings, including fines or injunctions, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations. In addition, compliance with any future laws, rules, regulations, and policies could negatively impact our profitability, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.

Furthermore, we may seek to expand our production capabilities in the future, which would require additional regulatory approvals that may not be provided in a timely manner or at all. Furthermore, such additional approvals could require changes to environmental offset areas and related environmental protections which, if overly burdensome, could impact our operations.

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Our exploration, collecting, processing and refining activities are subject to extensive and costly environmental requirements, and current and future laws, regulations, and permits may impose significant costs, liabilities, or obligations, or could limit or prevent our ability to continue our operations as currently contemplated or to undertake new operations.

All phases of exploring for and collecting and processing polymetallic nodules are subject to environmental regulation in various jurisdictions and under national as well as international laws and conventions. No seafloor polymetallic nodule deposit has been developed commercially, and it is not clear what environmental parameters may need to be measured to satisfy regulatory authorities for an ISA Exploitation Contract to be granted. A full ESIA for deep-sea collecting operations has yet to be completed and approved by the ISA, and the full impact of any polymetallic nodule collecting operation on the environment has yet to be determined. Further, the required standards for an ESIA have not been finalized by the ISA, which could require changes to any submissions made by our subsidiaries in connection with an ISA Exploitation Contract application. Environmental legislation is evolving in a manner which is likely to require strict standards and enforcement, increased fines and penalties for non-compliance, more stringent environmental assessments of proposed projects and a heightened degree of responsibility for companies and their officers, directors and employees.

Nodule collection operations in the CCZ are certain to disturb wildlife in the operating area and may impact ecosystem function. The nature and severity of these impacts on CCZ wildlife are expected to vary by species and are currently subject to significant uncertainty. Our campaigns to baseline wildlife and ecosystem function, pilot the nodule collection system and monitor impacts arising from the use of this system have been completed. Data processing and analysis is in progress and, similar to studies conducted in respect of land-based mining, may not definitively establish the impacts of activities on the biodiversity in the CCZ. Given the significant volume of deep water and the difficulty of sampling and retrieving biological specimens, a complete biological inventory might never be established. Accordingly, impacts on CCZ biodiversity may never be, completely and definitively known. For the same reasons, it may also not be possible to definitively say whether the impact of nodule collection on global biodiversity will be less significant than those estimated for land-based mining for a similar amount of produced metal.

It is also currently not definitively known whether the risk of biodiversity loss in the CCZ could be eliminated through setting aside large representative areas of CCZ under protection (13 areas currently set aside by ISA covering 43% of the CCZ) or reduced through mitigation strategies inside operating areas or how long it will take for disturbed seabed areas to recover naturally. Prior research indicates that the density, diversity and function of fauna representing most of resident biomass (including mobile, pelagic and microbial life) are expected to recover naturally over years to decades. However, a high level of uncertainty exists around recovery of fauna that requires the hard substrate of nodules for critical life function. The extent to which planned measures, such as leaving behind partial nodule cover and setting aside no-take zones, would aid recruitment and recovery of nodule-dependent species in impacted areas will depend on factors like habitat connectivity, which is an area that is still under study.

While we intend to collect seafloor polymetallic nodules in a way that mitigates and reduces potential damage to the seafloor, marine life and ecosystem function, we do not know whether the ISA or any other regulatory body will seek to impose onerous methods for the restoration of the disturbed area or rehabilitation obligations on our collecting process. Any such obligations, to the extent they are overly burdensome, could result in material changes to our business as currently contemplated.

Although the environmental impact review process has not yet been finalized, all contractors have been made aware of the requirement to complete baseline studies and an ESIA, culminating in an EIS, prior to collecting. The EIS would be accompanied by an EMMP, which will be required as part of the application for an ISA Exploitation Contract within the contract areas of NORI, TOML and Marawa. The EMMP is expected to specify the objectives and purpose of all monitoring requirements, the components to be monitored, frequency of monitoring, methods of monitoring, analysis required in each monitoring component, monitoring data management and reporting.

The EMMP will also be submitted to the ISA for approval as part of the ISA Exploitation Contract application. There are no guarantees that the ISA will evaluate any exploitation contract application by our subsidiaries in a timely manner, and even if the ISA does timely evaluate such applications(s), such subsidiary may be required to submit a supplementary EIS before being approved. This may result in delays that could impact our projected timeframe. Furthermore, in the event that the ISA evaluates and approves an application in a timely manner, any aspect of such application and approval theoretically could be subject to legal challenges which could result in further delays that could detrimentally impact our business. For example, certain conservation groups have called for a ten-year moratorium on all deep-sea mineral exploration and exploitation activities. While this agenda does not appear to have directly impacted the development of proposed Final Regulations and Standards and Guidelines by the ISA, any such moratorium would have a material adverse effect on our business.

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The environmental permitting process, which includes considerations of the impacts of our activities on the biodiversity of the CCZ, is expected to involve a series of checks and balances with reviews being conducted by the ISA, including technical evaluations by the ISA Secretariat and the Legal and Technical Commission (the “LTC”). The recommendations of the LTC will then go before the ISA Council (“Council”), a core policy-making body of the ISA, which will then review and, if it deems appropriate, approve the contractor’s application. It would require a two-thirds majority of the Council to reject a development proposal that is recommended to it by the LTC. There are no assurances that the work our subsidiaries have done to date, or their contemplated future operations will satisfy the final environmental rules and regulations adopted by the ISA, and any future changes could delay the timing of such submissions to the ISA or our subsidiaries operations more generally, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Sponsoring State approvals and permits are currently and may in future be required in connection with our operations. To the extent such approvals are required and not obtained, our subsidiaries may be curtailed or prohibited from proceeding with planned exploration or development of mineral properties. Failure to comply with applicable laws, regulations, and permitting requirements may result in enforcement actions thereunder, including orders issued by regulatory or judicial authorities causing operations to cease or be curtailed and may include corrective measures requiring capital expenditures, installation of additional equipment, or remedial actions. Parties engaged in collection operations may be required to compensate those suffering loss or damage by reason of the collection activities and may have civil or criminal fines or penalties imposed for violations of applicable laws and regulations.

We may become subject to environmental liabilities as a result of noncompliance with existing or future regulations.

All of the exploration and development operations of our subsidiaries will be subject to environmental permitting and regulations, which can make operations expensive or prohibit them altogether. We may also be subject to potential risks and liabilities associated with pollution of the environment that could occur as a result of our subsidiaries’ exploration, development, and production activities.

To the extent that a subsidiary becomes subject to environmental liabilities, the payment of such liabilities, or the costs incurred to remedy environmental pollution, would reduce funds otherwise available to us, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. If we or our subsidiaries are unable to fully remedy an environmental problem, they might be required to suspend operations or enter into interim compliance measures pending completion of the required remedy. The potential exposure could be material to our business.

All of our exploration, development, production and processing activities will be subject to regulation under certain environmental laws and regulations. Our subsidiaries may be required to obtain permits for their activities. They may be required to update and review permits from time to time, and may also be subject to environmental impact analyses and public review processes prior to the approval of any future activities. It is possible that future changes in applicable laws, regulations and permits, or changes in their enforcement or regulatory interpretation by local governments, sponsor states, and other regulatory bodies, could have a significant impact on our business.

II.Resource and Market Risks.

The grade and quality of the polymetallic nodule deposits that we intend to develop are estimates, and there are no guarantees that such deposits will be suitable for collecting or commercialization.

The grades and abundances of the seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits that we intend to develop and commercialize are estimates that may prove to be inaccurate. While limited samples have been collected and analyzed, there are no guarantees that our estimates of quality will hold true with respect to the polymetallic nodule deposits that we are able to collect from the seafloor. Actual nodule grades and abundances may vary from our estimates, which could have a material adverse impact on our projections for future revenues, cash flows, royalties, and development and operating expenditures.

In addition, the precise form of mineral occurrence, grade, abundance, and tonnage, which is projected based on the mapping and analysis of samples, is not yet known. There is a risk that the sampling and imaging that has been completed to date, and that which will need to be completed in the future, has not and/or will not allow us to accurately quantify the tonnage, abundance and grade of identified polymetallic nodule deposits. Moreover, the projections or classifications based on such sampling could result in inaccurate environmental, geological or metallurgical assumptions (including with respect to the size, grade, abundance, and/or recoverability of minerals) or incorrect assumptions concerning economic recoverability.

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No seafloor polymetallic nodule deposit has ever been commercially collected, and our offshore collection technology and development plans and processes may not be sufficient to accomplish our objectives.

Seafloor polymetallic nodules have never been commercially mined, and there is a risk that our offshore collection and recovery methods and the equipment that we intend to utilize during this process, including transferring nodules to transport vessels and delivering of nodules to port, may not be adequate for the economic development of seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits. The equipment and technology that we intend to utilize has not been fully proven in such subsea conditions and for this specific material and application, and failure to adapt existing equipment or to develop suitable equipment or recovery, transportation and development techniques for the prevailing material and seafloor conditions would have a material adverse effect on the business of our subsidiaries, and the results of their operations and financial condition. As a result, even if the ISA timely reviews and approves our expected application for an exploitation contract, which will include a plan of work for exploitation, for NORI Area D, there are no assurances that we will have successfully completed all development and pre-production work necessary to start commercial production at the end of the first quarter of 2026. We have partnered with Allseas, a leading global offshore contractor, to undertake a pre-production pilot collection system test in which a collector vehicle, a riser and lift system and surface production vessel have been tested. Although the pilot collection system test was successful, there can be no assurance that their technology will eventually be adequate for full scale commercial production.

On March 16, 2022, NORI and Allseas entered into a non-binding term sheet for the development and operation of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System. NORI and Allseas intend to equally finance all costs related to developing and getting Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System into production currently. The parties intend to detail and revise these cost estimates in three definitive agreements for the engineering, build and operations phases which the parties expect to enter into before the submission of our exploitation application in 2024. There can be no assurances, however, that we will enter into the binding Heads of Terms and definitive agreements with Allseas in a particular time period, or at all, or on terms similar to those set forth in the non-binding term sheet, or that if such definitive agreements are entered into by us that the proposed commercial systems and second production vessel will be successfully developed or operated in a particular time period, or at all and hence, we may be delayed in obtaining offshore collection equipment in the event we do not reach agreement with Allseas and have to develop such equipment on our own or through new third-party contractual relationships.

We are reliant on third parties to conduct independent analyses with respect to our business, and any inaccuracies in such analyses could have a material adverse effect on our offshore collection and onshore processing and refining objectives.

We rely upon third-party consultants, engineers, analysts, scientists, and others to provide analyses, reviews, reports, advice, and opinions regarding our potential projects. For example, the NORI Initial Assessment and the TOML Mineral Resource Statement, contain mineral resource estimates and other information with respect to our contract areas. There is a risk that such analyses, reviews, reports, advice, opinions, and projects are incorrect, in particular with respect to resource estimation, process development, and recommendations for products to be produced, as well as with respect to economic assessments, including estimating the capital and operating costs of our project and forecasting potential future revenue streams. Uncertainties are also inherent in such estimations.

Mineral resource estimates from the contract areas of NORI and TOML are only estimates.

Estimates of mineral resources from the contract areas of NORI and TOML described in our SEC filings and reported in technical reports prepared by AMC are only estimates and depend on geological interpretation and statistical inferences or assumptions drawn from survey data and recovery and sampling analysis, which might prove to be materially inaccurate. While these reports have been provided by experts, there is a degree of uncertainty attributable to the estimation of mineral resources. Mineral reserves have not been defined and will require completion of further studies. Until mineral resources are actually collected and processed, the quantity of metal and nodule abundance must be considered as estimates only and no assurance can be given that the indicated levels of metals will be produced. In making determinations about whether to advance any of our projects to further development, we must rely upon calculated estimates for the mineral resources and grades of mineralization in our contract areas and estimated equipment production rates, equipment availability and utilization and collection efficiency.

The estimation of mineral reserves and mineral resources is an iterative process and is, at times, partially dependent upon the judgment of the persons preparing the estimates. The process relies on the quantity and quality of available data and is based on knowledge, experience, statistical analysis of data and industry practices. Valid estimates made at a given time may significantly change when new information becomes available.

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Estimated mineral reserves and mineral resources may have to be recalculated based on changes in metal prices, further exploration or development activity or actual production experience. This could materially and adversely affect estimates of the volume or grade of mineralization, estimated recovery rates or other important factors that influence mineral reserves and mineral resources estimates. The extent to which mineral resources may ultimately be reclassified as mineral reserves is dependent upon the demonstration of their profitable recovery. Any material changes in volume and grades of mineralization will affect the economic viability of placing a property into production and a property’s return on capital. We cannot provide assurance that polymetallic nodules can be collected or processed profitably.

The mineral resource estimates in our SEC filings have been determined and valued based on assumed future metal prices, cut-off grades, production rates and operating costs that may prove to be inaccurate. Extended declines in the market price for nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt may render portions of our mineralization uneconomic and result in reduced reported volume and grades, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, financial position and results of operations.

In addition, inferred mineral resources have a great amount of uncertainty as to their existence and their economic and legal feasibility. You should not assume that any part of an inferred mineral resource will be upgraded to a higher category or that any of the mineral resources will be reclassified as mineral reserves. Currently 97% of the NORI Area D resource is classified into indicated and measured categories.

Our business is subject to significant risks, and we may never develop minerals in sufficient grade or quantities to justify commercial operations.

Mineral resource exploration, development, and operations are highly speculative and are characterized by a number of significant risks, including, among other things, unprofitable efforts resulting not only from the failure to discover mineral resources, and from finding mineral resources which, though present, are insufficient in quantity and quality to return a profit from production. Once mineralization is discovered, it may take a number of years from the initial exploration phases before production is possible, during which time the potential feasibility of the project may change adversely. Substantial expenditures are required to establish mineral resources and reserves, to determine processes to collect and transport the minerals and, if required, to construct processing facilities.

No deep-sea polymetallic properties in the CCZ that have been identified have as of today been developed into production. Exploration and exploitation risks exist in the discovery, location, definition and recovery of seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits. Given that no seafloor polymetallic nodule deposit has ever been commercially developed, such risks may have a material impact on our ability to accomplish our objectives. Operations may be affected by the availability of suitable vessels and equipment, prevailing sea conditions, changes in meteorological conditions and climate change, currents close to the seafloor and throughout the water column, recovery of materials sampled, lack of experience in delineating deposits, or unsuitability of equipment for recovering such material in prevailing conditions. Substantial expenditures are required to establish mineral reserves, to develop metallurgical processes, and to construct collection and transportation vessels, and we will be required to rely upon the expertise of consultants and others for exploration, development, construction and operational knowhow, and such consultants and third parties may not always be available to support our operations. If we are not able to obtain such expertise or identify alternative sources of expertise, our operations and financial results will be negatively impacted.

While we believe that seafloor polymetallic nodules in the contract areas of our subsidiaries account for some of the world’s largest aggregated estimated deposits of battery metals, no assurance can be given that minerals will be discovered in sufficient grade or quantities to justify commercial operations. Whether an exploration property will be commercially viable depends on a number of factors, including: the particular attributes of the deposit, such as size, grade and proximity to infrastructure; metal prices, which are highly cyclical; availability of and effectiveness of technology to recover, trans-ship, transport and process nodules; government regulations, including regulations relating to prices, taxes, royalties, land tenure, land use, and environmental protection; availability of required personnel, third-party partners and contractors, any required financing and commercial demand in the marketplace for such metals. The precise impact of these factors cannot accurately be predicted, but the combination of these factors may result in the inability of our subsidiaries to operate or generate an adequate return on invested capital.

While we and our subsidiaries will evaluate the political and economic factors in determining an exploration strategy, there can be no assurance that significant restrictions will not be placed on intended development areas. Such restrictions may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operation.

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Uncertainty in our estimates of polymetallic nodule deposits could result in lower-than-expected revenues and higher costs.

We base our estimates of polymetallic nodule deposits on engineering, economic, and geological data assembled and analyzed by outside firms, which are reviewed by third-party expert consultants including engineers and geologists. Such estimates, however, are necessarily imprecise and depend to some extent on professional interpretation, including statistical inferences drawn from available data, which may prove unreliable. There are numerous uncertainties inherent in estimating quantities and qualities of the polymetallic nodules that we intend to collect and the costs associated therewith, including many factors beyond our control. Estimates of economically recoverable minerals necessarily depend upon a number of variable factors and assumptions, all of which may vary considerably from actual results, such as:

environmental, geological, geotechnical, collecting and processing conditions that may not be fully identified by available data or that may differ from experience;
changes to the strategic approach to collecting and processing, which will depend in large part on market demand, corporate strategy and other prevailing economic and financial conditions;
assumptions concerning future prices of products (including, most notably, battery metals and manganese ore) foreign exchange rates, production rates, process recovery rates, transportation costs, operating costs, capital costs and reclamation costs; and
assumptions concerning future effects of regulation, including the issuance of required permits and taxes by governmental agencies and foreign government policies relating to our collecting of the mineral resources from our contract areas.

Uncertainty in estimates related to the availability of polymetallic nodules could result in lower-than-expected revenues and higher than expected costs or a shortened estimated life for our projects. Fluctuations in factors out of our control such as changes in future product pricing, foreign government policies and foreign exchange rates can have a significant impact on the estimates of mineral resources and reserves and can result in significant changes in the quantum of our resources and/or reserves period-to-period.

We operate in a competitive industry, and there are no assurances that our efforts will be successful.

The battery metals production industry is capital intensive and competitive. Production of battery materials and manganese alloys is largely dominated by Chinese competitors. These competitors may have greater financial resources, as well as other strategic advantages to operate, maintain, improve and possibly expand their facilities. Additionally, domestic Chinese resources firms have historically been able to produce minerals and/or process metals from land-based operations at relatively low costs due to domestic economic and regulatory factors, including less stringent environmental and governmental regulations and lower labor and benefit costs. In addition to three contracts held by our subsidiaries and partners, 16 other entities (ISA Member States and private companies sponsored by ISA Member States) currently hold ISA Exploration Contracts for polymetallic nodules. If and when they move into the exploitation phase, each of these contract-holders could become potential competitors with respect to the collection of polymetallic nodules and the production of nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt products. Some of these contract holders may possess greater financial and/or technical resources. There is increasing competition from new and existing marine mineral players for the availability of marine exploration and support vessels, related marine equipment and specialized personnel, desirable exploration areas, suitable offshore collection and onshore processing equipment, and available capital. There is a risk that competitors may find more promising resources, identify or develop more economic technologies, enter into strategic partnerships that constrain our optionality, or may develop novel methods to collect nodules from the seafloor or process nodules into metals that are more economic than we currently contemplate.

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The prevailing market prices of nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt, and other commodities will have a material impact on our ability to achieve commercial success.

The profitability of our nodule collection operations is significantly affected by changes in the market price of battery metals (nickel, copper and cobalt) and manganese ores and the cost of power, natural gas, coal, marine fuels, among other commodities and supply requirements. Prices of such metals are affected by numerous factors beyond our control, including: military conflict; prevailing interest rates and returns on other asset classes; expectations regarding inflation, monetary policy and currency values; speculation; governmental and exchange decisions regarding the disposal of metal stockpiles; political and economic conditions; available supplies of battery metals from mine production, inventories and recycled metal; sales by holders and producers of battery metals; and demand for products containing nickel, manganese, copper and cobalt. The price of nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt and other minerals and natural gas has fluctuated widely in recent years. Depending on the prevailing price of nickel, manganese, copper, and cobalt, and the cost of power, natural gas, chemical reagents, marine fuels, cash flow from our metal production operations may not be sufficient to cover our operating costs or the costs to service any outstanding debt. In addition, our proposed full scale production plans would involve placing a large percentage of global manganese production in the market, and we may be constrained in our ability to sell such large volumes, or such production may negatively impact the market price of manganese, which would, in either case, negatively impact our overall economic position.

We are not currently party to any commodity hedging contracts, as we do not yet have any production. Debt financing may not be available on commercially reasonable terms, or at all.

We may be adversely affected by fluctuations in demand for nickel, manganese, copper, cobalt, and other commodities.

Because our revenue is expected to be from the collection and processing of minerals, changes in demand for, and taxes and other tariffs and fees imposed upon, such minerals and derived mineral products (most notably, nickel, manganese, copper, and cobalt) could significantly affect our profitability. A prolonged or significant economic contraction in the U.S., China or worldwide could put downward pressure on market prices of minerals. Protracted periods of low prices for minerals could significantly reduce revenues and the availability of required development funds in the future. This could cause substantial reductions to, or a suspension of, our exploration, collecting and production operations, and impair asset values.

Demand for our minerals may be impacted by changes in supply dynamics and sources, and changes in demand for downstream products, including batteries for EV and energy storage that consume high volumes of the metals we intend to produce, as well as demand for manganese alloys used in steel-making, the targeted market for most of our manganese production. Lack of growth or material increases in new sources of supply in this or in any other related markets may adversely affect the demand for our minerals and any related products, and if the market for these critical existing and emerging technologies does not grow as we expect, grows more slowly than we expect, or if the demand for our products in these markets decreases, then our business, prospects, financial condition and operating results could be harmed. Notably, our financial success in part will depend in part on the expansion of the global manganese market to consume the additional volume of manganese that we intend to produce.

In contrast, extended periods of high commodity prices may create economic dislocations that could be destabilizing to the supply and demand of minerals, and ultimately to the broader markets. Periods of high market prices for our minerals are generally beneficial to our financial performance. However, strong prices also create economic pressure to identify or create new sources of supply and alternate technologies requiring consumption of metals that ultimately could depress future long-term demand for nickel, cobalt, copper and related products, and at the same time may incentivize development of competing properties.

We may experience difficulty in creating market acceptance for a novel manganese product.

We will be producing a novel manganese silicate product which does not yet have recognition in the marketplace with customers. Metallurgical testwork, market studies by CRU International Limited, value-in-use studies by SINTEF and initial engagement with customers indicate that this manganese silicate product will be a premium product with high value in use as an input into silicomanganese alloy production that we believe will receive strong market acceptance. However, mineral processing industries may be slow to change feed stocks and suppliers, even in the face of potential advantages.

Additionally, manganese silicate is not a conventional mineral product and may require additional approvals for export and import from our processing facilities to our future customers.

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Our ability to generate revenue will be diminished if we are unable to compete with substitutions for the minerals that we intend to process.

Technology changes rapidly in the industries and end markets that utilize our materials. If these industries shift to new technologies or products (e.g., nickel-rich battery chemistries could be replaced by other battery chemistries that do not use nickel or cobalt such as lithium iron phosphate (LFP), or copper could be increasingly substituted by aluminum) or use less of the metals that we intend to collect and process, or if suitable substitutes become available, it could result in a decline in demand for our metal products. If the demand for our metal products decreases, it will have a material adverse effect on our business and the results of our operations and financial condition.

III.Social License and Public Perceptions Risks.

Negative perceptions related to the offshore collection of polymetallic nodules could have a material adverse effect on our business.

There exist certain negative perceptions related to acquiring metals produced from deep-sea minerals. Under pressure from non-governmental organizations, some governments and companies in the EV supply chain have expressed reservations about using battery metals derived from deep-sea minerals (including polymetallic nodules), pending more research on the impacts of deep-sea mineral extraction operations on marine biodiversity and ecosystem function. If this position gains broad traction by governments and commercial customers alike in relation to battery metals sourced from polymetallic nodules, it could have a material impact on our business and operations.

Reduced growth in the adoption of electric vehicles by consumers may change our strategy and our business and operating results may be impacted.

Given that we have focused part of our operating plan on the sale of nodule-derived battery metals into the EV supply chain, our growth may be affected by the consumer adoption of EVs. The market for EV is relatively new, rapidly evolving, characterized by rapidly changing technologies, price competition, additional competitors, evolving government regulation and industry standards, frequent new vehicle announcements and changing consumer demands and behaviors. While it has been projected that demand for EVs will surge over time, if the market for EVs does not develop as we expect, or develops more slowly than we expect, our business and operating results may be impacted, as we refocus on other industrial uses of the metals we plan to produce.

We, our partners and our shareholders may be adversely impacted by pressure and lobbying from non-governmental organizations.

Like other businesses that operate in the resources industry, we along with our partners, and our shareholders are subject to pressure and lobbying from non-governmental organizations, particularly with respect to impacts on the deep-sea environment. There is a risk that the demands and actions of such non-governmental organizations may cause significant disruption to our business, which could have a material adverse effect on our operations and financial condition. It is possible that direct action from non-governmental environmental groups could physically impact ongoing operation during exploration, project development and commercial operations.  As seen during the coordinated and disruptive activities by Greenpeace International during Campaign 8a, designed to prevent and obstruct the campaign, such activities can have significant impacts from a timing, financial and safety perspective.  There can be no assurances that such activities by Greenpeace and other stakeholder will not materially impact our ongoing operations.

IV.    Offshore and Onshore Technology Risks and Operational Risks.

Offshore collection and onshore processing and refining operations pose inherent risks and costs that may negatively impact our business.

Offshore collection and onshore processing and refining operations involve many hazards and uncertainties, including, among others:

technical and operational challenges in the offshore collection operations and scaling up of such operations;

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challenges in and delays caused by transferring nodules to transport vessels and delivering nodules to port (including limited availability of and cost to secure the equipment to allow the activity);
industrial accidents;
unusual and unexpected maritime conditions;
unexpected seafloor conditions;
onshore metallurgical or other processing problems;
unexpected environmental conditions, including contamination or leakage;
periodic interruptions due to inclement or hazardous weather conditions or other acts of nature;
fire;
piracy and disruptive action by non-governmental actors opposed to deep-sea mineral extraction;
organized labor disputes or work slowdowns;
mechanical equipment failure and facility performance problems;
the availability of financing, market demand, critical technology and equipment, and skilled labor; and
the inability of suppliers to provide key process inputs like electricity, gas, coal and processing reagents on a timely basis at the prices that have been forecast.

These occurrences could result in damage to, or destruction of, production facilities, personal injury or death, environmental damage, delays in processing, increased production costs, asset write downs, monetary losses and legal liability, any of which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition and adversely affect our projected development and production estimates. In addition, our operations could be interrupted by or negatively influenced by non-governmental actors which could negatively impact our or our subsidiaries’ ability to operate in the CCZ and international markets, obtain capital, collect, transport, process or sell metals, or otherwise conduct business.

The polymetallic nodules that we may recover may require specialized transfer and delivery equipment and processes, and there is no certainty that we will be able to develop or otherwise access such transfer and delivery equipment or processes that are suitable for our purposes.

The polymetallic nodules that we may collect may require specialized equipment and processes in connection with the transfer of such nodules to transport vessels and delivery of the nodules to port. To date, we have not transferred significant quantities of nodules to transport vessels nor delivered significant quantities of nodules to port. The anticipated cost to develop this equipment and processes is significant. There is a risk that the equipment and/or processes necessary to transfer commercial quantities of nodules to transport vessels and deliver them to port may be economically prohibitive.

Although we are currently negotiating with third-party shipping companies to transfer nodules to transport vessels and to deliver nodules to port, our future needs with respect to the required equipment and processes have yet to be fully determined, and as such, the capital costs, performance, reliability, and maintenance of such equipment and processes is currently uncertain and may be more expensive and take longer to develop than we currently estimate. In addition, the required equipment and processes may not be developed or become available at commercial scale in the time frame we require, which could have a material negative impact on our short-term operations and financial results.

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Our business is contingent on our ability to successfully identify, collect, ship and process polymetallic nodules profitably, and in doing so, we will need to rely on certain existing and future strategic relationships, some of which we may be unable to maintain and/or develop.

In conducting our business, we will rely on continuing existing strategic relationships as well as new relationships in a variety of disciplines, including the offshore equipment and services industries, the onshore mineral processing industry, and others involved in the mineral exploration industry. We will also need to continue to develop new relationships with third-party contractors, as well as with certain regulatory and governmental departments.

For example, we have been working with Hatch, a global engineering, project management, and professional services firm, to support the development of onshore processing technology for the production of readily saleable copper and manganese products, as well as products such as high-grade nickel and cobalt sulfates for the electric vehicle battery markets. In connection therewith, Hatch has supported us with the development of a near-zero solid waste flowsheet. We are also party to certain agreements with Allseas, pursuant to which, among other things, Allseas has agreed to design, engineer and construct an integrated offshore collection system to collect nodules from NORI Areas, and to assist with shipping efforts thereafter. Allseas developed a test system and demonstrated this capability, but it is not certain that Allseas will convert, or will be able to convert such system into a full-scale commercial operation or that we will reach contractual terms with Allseas for such commercial arrangements.  If we are unable to enter into definitive agreements with Allseas for the use of its technology for the collection, transport and commercial production of polymetallic nodules, it will have a material adverse effect on our business.  We are also in discussions with third party shipping companies to develop a system and method to transfer nodules to transport vessels and deliver nodules to port.

There can be no assurance that we will be able to continue to maintain and develop our existing relationships, or that we will be able to form the new relationships that are required for our business to be successful.  There can be no assurances that we will be able to find additional partners with the correct capabilities to support our development efforts or whether we will be able to engage these partners on acceptable terms or at all.

Some of the offshore equipment that we will need to accomplish our objectives has not been manufactured and/or tested.

Our subsidiaries will need to rely on high-value equipment for the offshore collection and transport of materials. Notwithstanding the successful collector test completed in 2022, much of the commercial-scale equipment, particularly as it pertains to subsea engineering and recovery systems, has yet to have completion of engineering, and has not been constructed and fully tested, and may not be suitable or may prove unreliable, and may not be delivered to us on a timely basis, thereby delaying our contemplated timetable. We have not yet identified a third-party shipping company with the necessary equipment to transfer nodules to transport vessels and deliver nodules to port. Moreover, our future needs with respect to commercial-scale subsea engineering and recovery systems have yet to be fully determined, and as such, the capital costs, performance, reliability, and maintenance associated with the necessary equipment is currently unknown. There can be no guarantees that the necessary commercial-scale subsea engineering and recovery systems can be developed, or if developed, that such systems will be deployable in an economically viable manner. Any equipment downtime or delayed mobilization of equipment may impact operations. Additionally, as we launch exploration, collection, and development initiatives, our subsidiaries may need to compete for the availability of suitable vessels and equipment, even though we have a close commercial relationship with our partners, there is a risk that certain vessels and equipment will be under long-term charter and will thus not be available to them when needed, if at all.

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Our business is substantially dependent on our strategic relationship with Allseas. If we and Allseas are unable to successfully maintain and expand this relationship, our business may be materially harmed.

We have partnered with Allseas, a leading global offshore contractor and significant shareholder in our Company, to undertake the development of many of the offshore systems we expect to utilize in our potential commercialization efforts [(including equipment required for the transfer of nodules to transport vessels and delivery to port)].  We are also in discussions with Allseas to enter into binding agreements with them for the future development and operation of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System and other services.  Allseas also provides us with exclusive access to the earlier of the development of the Project Zero Offshore Nodule Collection System and December 31, 2026 to the Hidden Gem, the converted drillship expected to be converted into a production vessel by Allseas for our commercial use.  In addition, Allseas has invested $5 million in our August 2022 private placement of Common Shares, $7 million in our August 2023 registered direct offer of our Common Shares and Class A Warrants and entered into an unsecured credit facility with us under an affiliate of Allseas agreed to lend us up to $25 million through August 31, 2025.  We cannot provide any assurance with respect to the success of our continued relationship with Allseas, that we will be able to enter into additional binding agreements with Allseas on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, that Allseas will continue to devote its resources to its relationship with us or otherwise perform its obligations under its current and future arrangements with us as expected, as a result of its limited experience in the collection and transportation of seafloor polymetallic nodules or otherwise, the result of any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations. As a result, we may need to engage and depend on other third parties for the services and funding Allseas currently and is expected to provide us. If these new relationships are not timely entered into or not entered into on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, or if any such relationship is not successful, this would likely have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations.

The polymetallic nodules that we may recover may require specialized onshore processing and refining, and there is no certainty that such processes will result in a recovery of metals that is consistent with our expectations, or that we will be able to develop or otherwise access processing plants that are suitable for our purposes.

The polymetallic nodules that our subsidiaries may collect, contain several base metals in varying concentrations, which will require processing and refining in metallurgical plants. To date, no nodules have been processed and refined into metal products commercially, and there is a risk that such processing and refining may not be economically viable and/or that there are presently unknown technical aspects that render the selected flowsheet unsuitable for processing to the products as described.

While the metallurgical recovery estimates have been derived from commercial operation benchmarking, benchscale and pilot scale testwork, the commercial metal recoveries to products could vary significantly from these estimates.

Should our offshore nodule collection plans become successful, we intend to partner with existing onshore processing partners to produce and develop new build onshore processing plants as we scale up production. Our future needs with respect to such processing plants have yet to be fully determined, and as such, the capital costs, performance, reliability, and maintenance of such plants is currently uncertain.

We have identified potential tolling facilities to process nodules into two products, manganese silicate and copper-nickel-cobalt alloy, or matte and developed a marketing strategy to place the latter products into existing smelting and refining facilities. There is no guarantee that these facilities will be available at the required times or that we would be able to secure them at commercially attractive rates. Additionally, even if we are able to secure appropriate processing facilities (through tolling arrangements), there is no guarantee that we will be able to provide them with the required nodule feedstocks at the required times.

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While we believe that we have identified specific sites for the potential construction of nodule processing plants (based on factors such as proximity to deep-water ports, cost access to renewable electric power and natural gas, and proximity to customers), there is a risk that we will be unable to secure one or more of these sites on suitable terms. For example, having faced significant issues in securing technical service provider capacity with scenario-based capability in 2022, we moved away from developing a new Project Zero Plant in India and instead are now reviewing the feasibility of utilizing existing facilities as an alternative.  In the event that we are unable to secure one or more of the sites we have identified, or if modification scope identification, development and associated construction delays of this scope implementation impact our ability to develop one or more of such sites, our ability to process polymetallic nodules would be detrimentally impacted. Additionally, there can be no guarantees that such plants can be developed, or if developed, that such plants will perform in an economically viable manner or provide the projected metal recovery rates at the estimated project capital and operating costs, which could impact projections for our future revenues, cash flows, royalties, and development and operating expenditures.

Accordingly, the timing in which we expand our operations may vary depending on geological, operational and financial developments, in addition to regulatory approvals from the ISA, among other factors, and these may impact our revenue and financial performance.

Our exploration and polymetallic nodule collecting activities may be affected by natural hazards, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Deep-sea mineral exploration and collection activities are inherently difficult and dangerous and may be delayed or suspended by severe weather events, sea conditions or other natural hazards, including volcanos, storms, hurricanes, tsunamis and unpredictable weather patterns. In addition, even though sea conditions in a particular location may be somewhat predictable, the possibility exists that unexpected conditions may occur that adversely affect our operations. Nodule collection activities, including, without limitation, the transfer of nodules to transport vessels and delivery to port, may be subject to interruptions resulting from weather and related marine conditions that adversely affect our collection operations or the ports of delivery, and any such delays could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Fluctuations in transportation costs or disruptions in transportation, processes or services, or damage or loss during transport could decrease our profitability or impair our ability to supply polymetallic nodules, processed minerals or products to our customers, which could adversely affect our results of operations.

Once our subsidiaries have been able to successfully collect the polymetallic nodules, they will be required to transport them to onshore facilities for processing, including the transfer of nodules to transport vessels and delivery to port. Furthermore, once they have reached a point of commercialization, we will need to transport our products to our future customers, wherever they may be located. Finding affordable and dependable transportation is important because it allows us to supply customers around the world. Labor disputes, embargos, sanctions, government restrictions, work stoppages, pandemics, derailments, damage or loss events, adverse weather conditions, vessel groundings inhibiting access to key navigation routes, other environmental events, changes to rail or ocean freight systems, availability of appropriate equipment or processes for transfer of nodules to transport vessels or other events and activities beyond our control could interrupt or limit available transport services, which could result in customer dissatisfaction and loss of sales potential and could materially adversely affect our results of operations.

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Actual capital costs, financing strategies, operating costs, production and economic returns may differ significantly from those we have anticipated and there can be no assurance that any future development activities will result in profitable metal production operations.

The actual operating costs of our subsidiaries to collect polymetallic nodules, transport, process and refine such nodules commercially will depend upon changes in the availability of financing or partners who undertake capital developments in partnership with us, and prices of labor, equipment and infrastructure, shipping costs, variances in ore recovery from those currently assumed, operational risks, changes in governmental regulation, including taxation, environmental, permitting and other regulations and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. Due to any of these or other factors, our capital and operating costs may be significantly higher than those set forth in the NORI Initial Assessment and TOML Mineral Resource Statement prepared by AMC and filed as exhibits to this Annual Report. As a result of higher capital and operating costs, our financing ability may be impacted, and this may be further affected by lower commodity prices in the international markets that could impact production or economic returns which may differ significantly from those set forth in the NORI Initial Assessment and TOML Mineral Resource Statement and there can be no assurance that any of our development activities will result in profitable operations.

We have limited operating history, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to commercially develop our resource areas or achieve profitability in the future.

We have a limited operating history, and we expect that our losses will continue until we achieve profitable commercial production. NORI currently intends to explore and collect mineral resources in the NORI areas identified in the exploration contract executed by NORI with the ISA, and we hope to expand such operations if viable in certain other parts of the CCZ, including by TOML in the TOML areas identified in the exploration contract executed between TOML and the ISA and DGE in the Marawa areas identified in the exploration contract executed by Marawa with the ISA. Although NORI anticipates that its first production of nodules from NORI Area D could be in the first quarter of 2026 (assuming submission of an application for an exploitation contract, that includes a plan of work for exploitation, for NORI Area D following the July 2024 ISA meeting and the ISA’s timely one-year review and approval thereof), there can be no assurance that it will be able to commercially develop these properties or that it will be able to generate profits in the future.

Limited offshore marine resource definition activities in the Marawa Contract Area, however, have occurred to date and we expect to collaborate with Marawa to assess the viability of any potential project in the Marawa Contract Area, although the timing of such assessment is unclear. Marawa has also delayed certain of its efforts in the Marawa Contract Area while it determines how it will move forward with additional assessment work.  There are no assurances that we will be able to come to an agreement with Marawa on the future development of the Marawa Contract Area or that we will be able to keep our rights in the Marawa Contract Area as a result of our efforts there, either of which could have a material and adverse effect on our future business prospects and financial condition.

Our operating expenses and capital expenditures will increase in the future as consultants and new employees are engaged, equipment associated with advancing exploration is leased or purchased, and properties are developed. There can be no assurance that we will generate any revenues or achieve profitability, or that the assumed levels of expense associated with our exploration, development, and commercialization processes will prove to be accurate.

Work stoppages or similar difficulties could significantly disrupt our operations, reduce our revenues and materially adversely affect our results of operations.

A work stoppage by any of the third parties providing services in connection with our operations or those of our strategic partners (such as for onshore or offshore operations) could significantly disrupt our activities, reduce our future revenues and materially adversely affect our results of operations.

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A shortage of skilled technicians and engineers may further increase operating costs, which could materially adversely affect our results of operations.

Efficient collection, transport and processing using modern techniques and equipment requires skilled technicians and engineers. In addition, our optimization and eventual downstream efforts will significantly increase the number of skilled operators, maintenance technicians, engineers and other personnel required to successfully operate our business. If we are unable to hire, train and retain the necessary number of skilled technicians, engineers and other personnel there could be an adverse impact on our labor costs and our ability to reach anticipated production levels in a timely manner, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.

We depend on key personnel for the success of our business. The loss of key personnel or the hiring of ineffective personnel could negatively impact our operations and profitability.

We depend on the services of our senior management team, our board of directors, our strategic partners and other key personnel. The loss of the services of any member of senior management, our board of directors or a key employee, or similar personnel within our strategic partners could have an adverse effect on our business. We and our partners may not be able to locate, attract or employ on acceptable terms qualified replacements for senior management, board of directors or other key employees if their services are no longer available.

Our growth will depend on our ability to execute on our plans and expand our operations and controls while maintaining effective cost controls.

Deep-sea exploration, nodule collection, and processing is an emerging industry, and our ability to implement our strategy requires effective planning and management control systems. Our plans may place a significant strain on our management and on our operational, financial and personnel resources. As such, our future growth and prospects will depend on our ability to manage this growth and to continue to expand and improve operational, financial and management information and quality control systems on a timely basis, while at the same time maintaining effective cost controls. Any failure to expand and improve operational, financial and management information and quality control systems in line with our growth could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. There are also risks associated with establishing and maintaining systems of internal controls.

We are dependent upon information technology systems, which are subject to cyber threats, disruption, damage and failure.

We depend upon information technology systems in the conduct of operations. Such information technology systems are subject to disruption, damage or failure from a variety of sources, including, without limitation, computer viruses, security breaches, cyber-attacks, natural disasters and defects in design. Cybersecurity incidents, in particular, are evolving and include, but are not limited to, malicious software, attempts to gain unauthorized access to data and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information or the corruption of data. Various measures have been implemented to manage our risks related to information technology systems and network disruptions. However, given the unpredictability of the timing, nature and scope of information technology disruptions, we could potentially be subject to downtimes, operational delays, the compromising of confidential or otherwise protected information, destruction or corruption of data, security breaches, other manipulation or improper use of our systems and networks or financial losses from remedial actions, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.

Our business is subject to a variety of risks, some of which may not be covered by our future or existing insurance policies.

In the course of the exploration, development, and production of our mineral resource properties, we may be subject to a variety of risks that could result in: (i) damage to, or destruction of, transportation vessels and processing facilities, (ii) personal injury or death, (iii) environmental damage, (iv) delays in collecting, transporting or processing, (v) monetary losses, (vi) natural disasters, (vii) environmental matters, and (viii) legal liability, among others. It is not always possible to fully insure against such risks, and we may determine not to insure against all such risks as a result of high premiums or for other reasons. Should such liabilities arise, they could reduce or eliminate any future profitability and result in an increase in cost and a decline in the value of our securities. We cannot be certain that insurance for some or all of these risks will be available on acceptable terms or conditions, if at all, and in some cases, coverage may not be acceptable or may be considered too expensive relative to the perceived risk.

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V.    Intellectual Property Risks.

We may not be able to adequately protect our intellectual property rights. If we fail to adequately enforce or defend our intellectual property rights, our business may be harmed.

Much of the technology used in the markets in which we compete is or may become protected by patents and trade secrets, and our commercial success will depend in significant part on our ability to access, obtain and maintain patent and trade secret protection for future products and methods or those of any of our strategic partners such as Allseas or onshore processing partners. To compete in these markets, we rely or may need to rely on a combination of trade secret protection, nondisclosure and licensing agreements, patents and trademarks to establish and protect our proprietary intellectual property rights. Our intellectual property rights (or those of our partners) may be challenged or infringed upon by third parties, or we may be unable to maintain, renew or enter into new license agreements with third-party owners of intellectual property on reasonable terms. In addition, our intellectual property may be subject to infringement or other unauthorized use outside of the U.S. In such case, our ability to protect our intellectual property rights by legal recourse or otherwise may be limited, particularly in countries where laws or enforcement practices are undeveloped or do not recognize or protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the U.S. Unauthorized use of our intellectual property rights (or those of our partners) or our inability (or the inability of our partners) to preserve our existing intellectual property rights (or those of our partners) could adversely impact our competitive position and results of operations. The loss of our patents could reduce the value of the related products. In addition, the cost to litigate infringements of our patents, or the cost to defend ourselves against patent infringement actions by others, could be substantial and, if incurred, could materially affect our business and financial condition.

Proprietary trade secrets and unpatented know-how may become important to our business. We will likely rely on trade secrets to protect certain aspects of our business systems and designs, especially where we do not believe that patent protection is appropriate or obtainable. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. Our employees, consultants, contractors, outside scientific collaborators and other advisors may unintentionally or willfully disclose our confidential information to competitors, and confidentiality agreements may not provide an adequate remedy in the event of unauthorized disclosure of confidential or proprietary information. Enforcing a claim that a third-party illegally obtained and is using our trade secrets is expensive and time consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. Moreover, our competitors may independently develop equivalent knowledge, methods and know-how. Failure to obtain or maintain trade secret protection could adversely affect our competitive business position.

We or our partners may not be able to obtain necessary patents and the legal protection afforded by any patents may not adequately protect our or our partners’ rights or permit us to gain or keep any competitive advantage.

Our ability (or that of our partners) to obtain necessary patents is uncertain, and the legal protection to be afforded by any patents we (or they) may be issued in the future may not adequately protect our (or their) rights or permit us (or them) to gain or keep any competitive advantage necessary for our operations or our partnerships. In addition, the specific content required of patents and patent applications that are necessary to support and interpret patent claims is highly uncertain due to the complex nature of the relevant legal, scientific and factual issues. Changes in either patent laws or interpretations of patent laws in the U.S. or elsewhere may diminish the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our patent protection. Even if patents are issued regarding our products and processes, our competitors may challenge the validity of those patents. Patents also will not protect our products and processes if competitors devise ways of making products without infringing our patents.

If we infringe, or are accused of infringing, on the intellectual property rights of third parties, it may increase our costs or prevent us from being able to commercialize new products.

There is a risk that we (or our partners) may infringe, or may be accused of infringing, the proprietary rights of third parties under patents and pending patent applications belonging to third parties that may exist in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world that relate to our products and processes (or those of our strategic partners). Because the patent application process can take several years to complete, there may be currently pending applications that may later result in issued patents that cover our products and processes. In addition, our products and processes may infringe existing patents.

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Defending ourselves against third-party claims, including litigation in particular, would be costly and time consuming and would divert management’s attention from our business, which could lead to delays in our exploration, collecting, processing, and commercialization efforts. If third parties are successful in their claims, we might have to pay substantial damages or take other actions that are adverse to our business. As a result of intellectual property infringement claims, or to avoid potential claims, we might:

be prohibited from, or delayed in, selling or licensing some of our products or using some of our processes unless the patent holder licenses the patent to us, which it is not required to do;
be required to pay substantial royalties or grant a cross license to our patents to another patent holder; or
be required to redesign a product or process so it does not infringe a third-party’s patent, which may not be possible or could require substantial funds and time.

In addition, we could be subject to claims that our employees, or we, have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed trade secrets or other proprietary information of third parties.

If we are unable to resolve claims that may be brought against us by third parties related to their intellectual property rights on terms acceptable to us, we may be precluded from offering some of our products or using some of our processes.

In addition, we have not obtained definitive global trademark protection for the name “The Metals Company” and we may not be able to secure such protection over time. If we are unable to secure such protection, we may need to rebrand or otherwise modify our name, which could result in costs, delays and loss of market recognition.

VI.    Public Company Risks and Risks Related to our Securities

Our business is capital intensive, and we will be required to raise additional funds in the future to accomplish our objectives. This additional financing may not be available on acceptable terms or at all. Failure to obtain this necessary capital when needed may force us to reduce or terminate our operations.

In light of the significant deficit in expected funding following the closing of the Business Combination in September 2021, we adopted what we call a “capital-light” strategy whereby we removed any allocation of funds to capital expenditures that were not deemed necessary to support the submission of an application for a plan of work for exploitation for NORI Area D, and by negotiating the settlement of program expenditures with our equity whenever possible in order to preserve our cash. The continuing exploration and development of the NORI, TOML and Marawa contract areas, however, will depend upon our ability to obtain dilutive and/or non-dilutive financing through stake sales in our assets, offtakes with prepayments, debt financing, equity financing, joint ventures, project-based or asset-based financing or other means. The actual amount of capital needed or that we raise for our projects, however, may vary materially from our current estimates. We currently expect that we will raise additional funds to finance our operations. There is no assurance that we will be successful in obtaining the required financing for these or other purposes, including for general working capital, or that any funds raised will be sufficient for the purposes contemplated, which could negatively impact our operating plans, financial results and ability to continue as a going concern. We will not initially have any producing properties and will have no source of significant operating cash flow until the end of the first half of 2026 at the earliest. There is no precedent for projects like ours, and therefore, financing may not be available on acceptable terms or at all. Failure to obtain additional financing on a timely basis could cause us to reduce or terminate our operations. Organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, warn against investing in activities focused on exploitation of deep-sea nodules as a result of the potential environmental impact of the activities. The influence of these groups could negatively impact our operations and ability to raise capital on acceptable terms or at all.

If additional funds are raised through further issuances of equity or convertible debt securities, existing shareholders could suffer significant dilution, and any new equity securities issued could have rights, preferences and privileges superior to those they possess prior to such issuances. Additionally, U.S. and global economic uncertainty, higher interest rates and diminished credit availability may limit our ability to incur indebtedness on favorable terms. Any debt financing secured in the future could involve restrictive covenants relating to capital raising activities and other financial and operational matters, which may make it more difficult for us to obtain additional capital and to pursue business opportunities, including potential acquisitions.

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Furthermore, the impact of geopolitical tension, such as a deterioration in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China or an escalation in conflict between Russia and Ukraine, or the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, including any resulting sanctions, export controls or other restrictive actions, could also lead to disruption, instability and volatility in the global markets, which may have an impact on our ability to obtain additional funding.

We may issue additional Common Shares or other equity securities without shareholder approval, which would dilute your ownership interests and may depress the market price of our common shares and sales of a substantial amount of our Common Shares may cause the price of our Common Shares to fall.

As at December 31, 2023, we had 306,558,710 Common Shares, 15,074,240 Short-Term Incentive Plan (“STIP”) options, 9,783,922 Long-Term Incentive Plan (“LTIP”) options and 24,500,000 warrants to acquire Common Shares issued and outstanding, which does not include the 4,500,000 Common Shares and 2,250,000 Class A warrants issuable in the private placement financing we announced in August 2023. Subject to the requirements of the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) (“BCBCA”), our Articles authorize us to issue Common Shares and rights relating to our Common Shares for the consideration and on the terms and conditions established by our board of directors in its sole discretion, whether in connection with acquisitions or otherwise. In addition, 56,634,518 Common Shares are reserved for issuance under the TMC Incentive Equity Plan, including 12,262,348 shares added to the plan in January 2024 pursuant to the plan’s evergreen provision, and 10,988,032 Common Shares are reserved for issuance under our 2021 Employee Stock Purchase Plan, in each case (the “ESPP”), including 3,065,587 shares added to the plan in January 2024, pursuant to the plan’s evergreen provision, in each case, subject to adjustment in certain events. In addition, up to 136,239,964 Common Shares, subject to adjustment in certain events, may be issued to the holders of special shares and holders of options underlying special shares upon conversion of special shares if certain common share price thresholds are met (“Special Shares”). Any Common Shares issued, including in connection with the August 2023 registered direct financing, upon exercise of warrants, upon conversion of the Special Shares or under the TMC Incentive Equity Plan, the ESPP or other equity incentive plans that we may adopt in the future, would dilute the percentage ownership held by you.

Our issuance of additional Common Shares or other equity securities of equal or senior rank would have the following effects:

our existing shareholders’ proportionate ownership interest in the Company will decrease;
the amount of cash available per share, including for payment of dividends in the future, may decrease;
the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding common share may be diminished; and
the market price of our Common Shares may decline.

In addition, the contractual lock-up agreements on certain of our securities entered into in connection with the Business Combination have all expired. As a result, all of our public shares are freely transferable. Sales of substantial amounts of our common shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales will occur, could adversely affect the market price of our Common Shares.

If our outstanding warrants are exercised, the number of shares eligible for future resale in the public market will increase and result in dilution to our shareholders. You will likely experience further dilution if we issue common shares in future financing transactions.

We have 15,000,000 outstanding Public Warrants to purchase 15,000,000 Common Shares and 9,500,000 Private Warrants outstanding exercisable for 9,500,000 shares of our Common Shares at an exercise price of $11.50 per share, which warrants became exercisable beginning on October 9, 2021. In addition, there are 3,980,770 Class A Warrants outstanding to purchase 3,980,770 Common Shares at an exercise price of $3.00 per share, that were issued as part of the August 2023 registered direct offering. In certain circumstances, the Public Warrants, Private Warrants and Class A Warrants may be exercised on a cashless basis and the proceeds from the exercise of such warrants will decrease. To the extent such warrants are exercised, additional shares of our Common Shares will be issued, which will result in dilution to the holders of our Common Shares and increase the number of shares eligible for resale in the public market. Sales of substantial numbers of such shares in the public market could adversely affect the market price of our Common Shares, the impact of which is increased as the value of our stock price increases.  Furthermore, if we raise additional funds by issuing additional Common Shares, or securities convertible into or exchangeable or exercisable for common stock, our shareholders will experience additional dilution, and new investors could have rights superior to existing stockholders.

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There can be no assurance that the Public Warrants, Private Warrants and Class A Warrants will be in the money, and they may expire worthless.

The exercise price for the outstanding Public Warrants and Private Warrants is $11.50 per Common Share. There can be no assurance that such warrants will be in the money prior to their expiration, and as such, such warrants may expire worthless. Since the closing of the Business Combination through March 11, 2024, the price of our Common Shares has ranged from a high of $10.38 to a low of $0.55 and as of March 15, 2024, the closing price of our Common Shares was $1.67. Based on the current trading price of our common shares we do not expect to receive any proceeds from exercise of the Public Warrants and Private Warrants unless there is a significant increase in the price of our Common Shares.

There are currently outstanding an aggregate of 28,480,770 warrants to acquire our Common Shares, which comprise 9,500,000 Private Warrants initially issued in connection with SOAC’s initial public offering, which were transferred to permitted transferees of the initial holders thereof, 15,000,000 Public Warrants and 3,980,770 Class A Warrants. All of our warrants are currently exercisable for one common share in accordance with their terms. Therefore, as of December 31, 2023, if we assume that each outstanding whole warrant is exercised and one common share is issued as a result of such exercise, with payment of the exercise price ranging from $3.00 to $11.50 per share, our fully-diluted share capital would increase by a total of 28,480,770 shares, with approximately $293.7 million paid to us to exercise the warrants. Furthermore, even if the warrants are in the money following the time they become exercisable, the holders of the warrants are not obligated to exercise their warrants, and we cannot predict whether holders of the warrants will choose to exercise all or any of their warrants.

We are involved in litigation that may adversely affect us and may not be successful in our litigation related to non-performing Private Investment in Public Equity (“PIPE”) investors.

Due to the nature of our business, we may be subject to regulatory investigations, claims, lawsuits and other proceedings in the ordinary course of our business. The results of these legal proceedings cannot be predicted with certainty due to the uncertainty inherent in litigation, including the effects of discovery of new evidence or advancement of new legal theories, the difficulty of predicting decisions of judges and juries and the possibility that decisions may be reversed on appeal. We can provide no assurances that these matters will not have a material adverse effect on our business. Following periods of volatility in the market, securities class-action litigation has often been instituted against companies. On October 28, 2021, a shareholder filed a putative class action against us and certain executives in federal district court for the Eastern District of New York, captioned Caper v. TMC The Metals Company Inc. F/K/A Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp., Gerard Barron and Scott Leonard. The complaint alleges that all defendants violated Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Messrs. Barron and Leonard violated Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act, by making false and/or misleading statements and/or failing to disclose information about our operations and prospects during the period from March 4, 2021 to October 5, 2021. On November 15, 2021, a second complaint containing substantially the same allegations was filed, captioned Tran v. TMC the Metals Company, Inc. These cases have been consolidated. On March 6, 2022, a lead plaintiff was selected. An amended complaint was filed on May 12, 2022, reflecting substantially similar allegations, with the Plaintiff seeking to recover compensable damages caused by the alleged wrongdoings. We deny any allegations of wrongdoing and filed and served the plaintiff a motion to dismiss on July 12, 2022 and intend to defend against this lawsuit. On July 12, 2023, an oral hearing on the motion to dismiss was held. The parties are currently awaiting a ruling.  On January 23, 2023, investors in the 2021 private placement from the Business Combination filed a lawsuit against us in the Commercial Division of New York Supreme Court, New York County, captioned Atalaya Special Purpose Investment Fund II LP et al. v. Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp. n/k/a TMC The Metals Company Inc., Index No. 650449/2023 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.).  We filed a motion to dismiss on March 31, 2023, after which the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on June 5, 2023.  The amended complaint alleges that we breached the representations and warranties in the plaintiffs’ private placement Subscription Agreements and breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  The Plaintiffs are seeking to recover compensable damages caused by the alleged wrongdoings.  We deny any allegations of wrongdoing and filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on July 28, 2023.  On December 7, 2023, the Court granted our motion to dismiss the claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and denied our motion to dismiss the breach of the Subscription Agreement claim.  We filed a notice of appeal regarding the Court’s denial of our motion to dismiss the breach of the Subscription Agreement claim.  There is no assurance that we will be successful in our defense of this lawsuit or that insurance will be available or adequate to fund any settlement or judgment or the litigation costs of this action.  Such losses or range of possible losses cannot be reliably estimated.

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We expected to receive approximately $330 million of proceeds in the private placement that closed on September 9, 2021 in connection with the Closing but only received $110.3 million (net of transactions costs). On September 20, 2021, we commenced litigation in the New York Superior Court, New York County against two investors who failed to fund their commitments pursuant to subscription agreements entered into in connection with the expected financing. These actions are captioned Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp. n/k/a TMC the metals company Inc. v. Ethos Fund I, LP, Ethos GP, LLC, Ethos DeepGreen PIPE, LLC, and Ethos Manager, LLC, Index No. 655527/2021 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.) and Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp. n/k/a TMC the metals company Inc. v. Ramas Capital Management, LLC, Ramas Energy Opportunities I, LP, Ramas Energy Opportunities I GP, LLC, and Ganesh Betanabhatla, Index No. 655528/2021 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.). The operative complaints allege that the investors breached the relevant subscription agreement and that the investors’ affiliates tortiously interfered with the subscription agreements by causing the investor not to fund its contractual obligations. We are seeking compensatory damages (plus interest), expenses, costs, and attorneys’ fees. There can be no assurances, however, that we will be successful in our efforts against these investors.

We are an emerging growth company and a smaller reporting company within the meaning of the Securities Act, and if we take advantage of certain exemptions from disclosure requirements available to “emerging growth companies” or “smaller reporting companies,” this could make our securities less attractive to investors and may make it more difficult to compare our performance with other public companies.

We are an “emerging growth company” within the meaning of the Securities Act, as modified by the JOBS Act, and we may take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not “emerging growth companies” including, but not limited to, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and shareholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. As a result, our shareholders may not have access to certain information they may deem important. We could be an emerging growth company for up to five years, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier, including if the market value of our Common Shares held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the end of any second quarter of a fiscal year, in which case we would no longer be an emerging growth company as of the last day of such fiscal year. We cannot predict whether investors will find our securities less attractive because we will rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our securities less attractive as a result of our reliance on these exemptions, the trading prices of our securities may be lower than they otherwise would be, there may be a less active trading market for our securities and the trading prices of our securities may be more volatile.

Further, Section 102(b)(1) of the JOBS Act exempts emerging growth companies from being required to comply with new or revised financial accounting standards until private companies (that is, those that have not had a registration statement under the Securities Act declared effective or do not have a class of securities registered under the Exchange Act) are required to comply with the new or revised financial accounting standards. The JOBS Act provides that a company can elect to opt out of the extended transition period and comply with the requirements that apply to non-emerging growth companies but any such election to opt out is irrevocable. We have elected not to opt out of such extended transition period, which means that when a standard is issued or revised and it has different application dates for public or private companies, we, as an emerging growth company, can adopt the new or revised standard at the time private companies adopt the new or revised standard. This may make comparison of our financial statements with another public company that is not an emerging growth company or is an emerging growth company which has opted out of using the extended transition period difficult or impossible because of the potential differences in accounting standards used.

Additionally, we are a “smaller reporting company” as defined in Item 10(f)(1) of Regulation S-K. Smaller reporting companies may take advantage of certain reduced disclosure obligations, including, among other things, providing only two years of audited financial statements. We will remain a smaller reporting company until the last day of the fiscal year in which (i) the market value of our Common Shares held by non-affiliates is greater than or equal to $250 million as of the end of that fiscal year’s second fiscal quarter, and (ii) our annual revenues are greater than or equal to $100 million during the last completed fiscal year and the market value of our Common Shares held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the end of that fiscal year’s second fiscal quarter. To the extent we take advantage of such reduced disclosure obligations, it may also make comparison of our financial statements with other public companies difficult or impossible.

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We may incur debt in the future, and our ability to satisfy our obligations thereunder remains subject to a variety of factors, many of which are not within our control.

We may seek to incur debt in the future to fund our exploration and operational programs, which would reduce our financial flexibility and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operation.

Should we incur debt, including through the drawdown of our credit facility with Allseas and/or our credit facility with ERAS Capital LLC and Gerard Barron, our ability to satisfy any resulting debt obligations and to reduce our level of indebtedness will depend on future performance. General economic conditions, mineral prices, and financial, business and other factors will have an impact on our operations and future performance, and many of these factors are beyond our control. As such, we cannot assure investors that we will be able to generate sufficient cash flow to pay the interest on any debt, or that future working capital, borrowings, or equity financing will be available to pay or refinance such debt or meet future debt covenants. Factors that will affect our ability to raise cash through an offering of securities or a refinancing of any debt include financial market conditions, the value of our assets, and our performance at the time we are seeking to raise capital. We cannot assure investors that we will have sufficient funds to make such payments. If we do not have sufficient funds and are otherwise unable to negotiate renewals of our current borrowings or to arrange for new financing, we might be required to take measures to generate liquidity, such as selling some or all of our assets. Any such sales could have a material adverse effect on our business, operations and financial results. Moreover, failure to obtain additional financing, if required, on a timely basis, could cause us to reduce or delay our proposed operations.

We may need to raise additional capital in order to complete our programs and commence commercial operations and there is no assurance that we will be able to obtain adequate financing in the future or that such financing will be available to us on advantageous terms.

An active trading market for our Common Shares and warrants may not be sustained, which would adversely affect the liquidity and price of our securities.

An active trading market for our securities may not be sustained. In addition, the price of our securities could fluctuate significantly for various reasons, many of which are outside our control, such as our stock performance, large purchases or sales of our Common Shares, legislative changes and general economic, political or regulatory conditions. The release of our financial results may also cause our share price to vary. The continued existence of an active trading market for our securities will depend to a significant extent on our ability to continue to meet Nasdaq’s listing requirements, which we may be unable to accomplish.

There can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with the continued listing standards of Nasdaq.

On September 10, 2021, our Common Shares and Public Warrants began trading on Nasdaq under the symbols “TMC” and “TMCWW,” respectively. If in the future Nasdaq delists our Common Shares from trading on its exchange for failure to meet the listing standards, we and our securityholders could face significant material adverse consequences including:

a limited availability of market quotations for our securities;
reduced liquidity for our securities;
a determination that our Common Shares are “penny stock” which will require brokers trading in our Common Shares to adhere to more stringent rules and possibly result in a reduced level of trading activity in the secondary trading market for our securities;
a limited amount of news and analyst coverage; and
a decreased ability to issue additional securities or obtain additional financing in the future.

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The closing bid price of our Common Shares has been below the Nasdaq’s minimum $1.00 per share for extended periods of time in 2022 and into 2023.  As a result, we received written notices from the Nasdaq in 2022 and 2023 notifying us that the closing bid price of the Common Shares over 30 consecutive trading days had fallen below the minimum $1.00 per share.  Although we regained compliance with the Nasdaq’s minimum closing bid price, we may not be able to continue to meet this Nasdaq listing requirement.  If the closing bid price of our Common Shares falls below $1.00 per share for another consecutive 30 trading days, we expect to receive another notification from the Nasdaq to that effect. If this were to happen, in accordance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(A), we expect to have 180 calendar days from the notice date to regain compliance. To regain compliance, the closing bid price of our Common Shares must be at least $1.00 per share for a minimum of 10 consecutive trading days. If we do not regain compliance in this 180-day period and we are not otherwise able to transfer our listing to another Nasdaq market and regain compliance with the $1.00 minimum closing bid price, the Nasdaq could delist our Common Shares and Public Warrants.

In the event that our Common Shares and Public Warrants are delisted from Nasdaq and are not eligible for quotation or listing on another market or exchange, trading of our Common Shares and warrants could be conducted only in the over-the-counter market or on an electronic bulletin board established for unlisted securities such as the Pink Sheets or the OTC Bulletin Board. In such event, it could become more difficult to dispose of, or obtain accurate price quotations for, our Common Shares and Public Warrants, and there would likely also be a reduction in our coverage by securities analysts and the news media, which could cause the price of our Common Shares and Public Warrants to decline further.

If we are unable to implement and maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and we may face litigation.

As a public company, we are required to implement and maintain internal controls over financial reporting and to report any material weaknesses in such internal controls. There is no guarantee we will maintain effective internal controls in the future.

If during the evaluation and testing process, we identify one or more material weaknesses in the design or effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting or determine that existing material weaknesses have not been remediated, our management will be unable to assert that our internal control over financial reporting is effective. Even if our management concludes that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, our independent registered public accounting firm may conclude that there are material weaknesses with respect to our internal controls or the level at which our internal controls are documented, designed, implemented, or reviewed. If we are unable to assert that our internal control over financial reporting is effective, or when required in the future, if our independent registered public accounting firm is unable to express an opinion as to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, investors may lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports and the valuation of our common stock could be adversely affected.

As a result of the material weaknesses and the associated restatements to our previously issued financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2023, the six months ended June 30, 2023 and the nine months ended September 30, 2023 contained in its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2023, June 30, 2023 and September 30, 2023, respectively, filed with the SEC and other matters that may be raised by the SEC, we may be subject to potential litigation or other disputes which may include, among others, claims invoking the federal and state securities laws, contractual claims or other claims arising from these matters and the preparation of our financial statements. We can provide no assurance that such litigation or dispute will not arise in the future. Any such litigation or dispute, whether successful or not, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

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The market price of our securities may be volatile, which could cause the value of your investment to decline.

The market price of our securities may be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations. In addition, the trading volume in our Common Shares and Public Warrants may fluctuate and cause significant price variations to occur. Securities markets worldwide experience significant price and volume fluctuations. This market volatility, as well as general economic, market and political conditions (including as a result of regional conflicts, geopolitical events and natural disasters), could reduce the market price of our securities in spite of our operating performance. If we are unable to operate as profitably as investors expect, the market price of our Common Shares will likely decline when it becomes apparent that the market expectations may not be realized. In addition, our results of operations could be below the expectations of public market analysts and investors due to a number of potential factors, including variations in our quarterly or annual results of operations, operating results of other companies in the same industry, additions or departures of key management personnel, changes in our earnings estimates (if provided) or failure to meet analysts’ earnings estimates, publication of research reports about our industry, litigation and government investigations, changes or proposed changes in laws or regulations or differing interpretations or enforcement thereof affecting our business, adverse market reaction to any indebtedness we may incur or securities it may issue in the future, changes in market valuations of similar companies or speculation in the press or the investment community with respect to us or our industry, negative media coverage, adverse announcements by us or others and developments affecting us, announcements by our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions, dispositions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments, actions by institutional shareholders, the possible effects of war, terrorism and other hostilities, adverse weather conditions, changes in general conditions in the economy or the financial markets or other developments affecting the industry in which we operate, and increases in market interest rates that may lead investors in our Common Shares to demand a higher yield, and in response the market price of our Common Shares could decrease significantly.

These broad market and industry factors may decrease the market price of our Common Shares, regardless of our actual operating performance. The stock market in general has, from time to time, experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations. In addition, in the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against these companies. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs, a material negative impact on our liquidity and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.

We may redeem unexpired warrants prior to their exercise at a time that is disadvantageous, thereby making the warrants worthless.

We have the ability to redeem outstanding Public Warrants and Private Warrants at any time after they become exercisable and prior to their expiration, at a price of $0.01 per warrant, provided that the closing price of our Common Shares equals or exceeds $18.00 per share (as adjusted for share subdivisions, share capitalizations, reorganizations, recapitalizations and the like) for any 20 trading days within a 30-trading day period ending on the third trading day prior to proper notice of such redemption and provided that certain other conditions are met. Our Class A Warrants have a similar call provision if the price of our Common Shares is over $6.50 per share (subject to adjustments) for 30 consecutive trading days at a price per warrant share of $0.0001.  If and when the warrants become redeemable by us, we may exercise our redemption right even if we are unable to register or qualify the underlying securities for sale under all applicable state securities laws. Redemption of the outstanding warrants could force you to (i) exercise your warrants and pay the exercise price therefor at a time when it may be disadvantageous for you to do so, (ii) sell your warrants at the then-current market price when you might otherwise wish to hold your warrants or (iii) accept the nominal redemption price which, at the time the outstanding warrants are called for redemption, is likely to be substantially less than the market value of your warrants. None of the private placement warrants will be redeemable by us on such terms so long as they are held by permitted transferees.

Reports published by analysts, including projections in those reports that differ from our actual results, could adversely affect the price and trading volume of our Common Shares.

Securities research analysts may establish and publish their own periodic projections for us. These projections may vary widely and may not accurately predict the results we actually achieve. Our common share price may decline if our actual results do not match the projections of these securities research analysts. Similarly, if one or more of the analysts who write reports on us downgrades our shares or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our share price could decline. If one or more of these analysts ceases coverage of us or fails to publish reports on us regularly, our share price or trading volume could decline. While we expect research analyst coverage, if no analysts commence coverage of us, the market price and volume for our Common Shares could be adversely affected.

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As we are not a reporting issuer in Canada, our Common Shares and Special Shares may be subject to restrictions on resale in Canada.

Our Common Shares and Special Shares were distributed pursuant to an exemption from the prospectus requirements in Canada. As we are not a reporting issuer in Canada and we do not intend to become a reporting issuer in Canada in the future, any distributions or trades of our securities will be a distribution that is subject to the prospectus requirements in Canada unless an exemption therefrom is available. An exemption from the prospectus requirements would be available to holders of shares of a class (and any underlying shares of such class) in respect of a trade if residents of Canada (the “Canadian Owners”) own, directly or indirectly, not more than 10% of the outstanding shares of such class or any underlying shares of such class, and represent in number not more than 10% of the total number of owners, directly or indirectly, of shares of the applicable class or underlying shares, on any distribution date (collectively, the “Ownership Cap”) and the trade is made through an exchange or market outside of Canada or to a person or company outside of Canada. On September 7, 2021, we received exemptive relief from the prospectus requirements in Canada such that the Common Shares and Special Shares issued to Canadian Owners in connection with the Business Combination are not subject to resale restrictions in Canada, subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the exemptive relief order. There can be no assurance that any future securities offered to Canadian Owners will be freely transferable by the Canadian Owners.

We are exposed to risks in our international operations, which could adversely affect our business.

We are exposed to foreign currency risk in connection with the business we conduct in foreign currencies to the extent that the exchange rates of the foreign currencies are subject to adverse change over time. It has not been our practice to enter into foreign exchange contracts to protect against adverse foreign currency fluctuations, and we cannot predict whether exchange rate fluctuations will significantly harm our operations or financial results in the future. In addition to adverse fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, we are exposed to further risks inherent in doing business abroad, including limitations on asset transfers, changes in foreign regulations and political turmoil, all of which could adversely affect us.

We may be classified as a PFIC in any taxable year which could result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. holders.

If we are classified as a PFIC, such status may have adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. Holders (as defined in the section titled “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations”). The rules governing PFICs can have adverse effects for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The tests for determining PFIC status for a taxable year depend upon the relative values of certain categories of assets and the relative amounts of certain kinds of income. The determination of whether we are a PFIC depends on the particular facts and circumstances (such as the valuation of our assets, including goodwill and other intangible assets) and may also be affected by the application of the PFIC rules, which are subject to differing interpretations. Based on our initial assessment, we do not believe that we were classified as a PFIC for U.S. federal income tax purposes for the taxable year ending December 31, 2023. However, the application of the PFIC rules is subject to uncertainty in several respects, and we cannot assure you the U.S. Internal Revenue Service will not take a contrary position. Furthermore, where we are classified as a PFIC this is a factual determination that must be made annually after the close of each taxable year. Accordingly, there can be no assurance with respect to our PFIC status for the current year or any future taxable year.  If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. holder holds our Common Shares or Public Warrants, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to such U.S. holder and such holders may be subject to additional reporting requirements. See “U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations — Tax Consequences of Ownership and Disposition of Public Shares and Public Warrants — Passive Foreign Investment Company Rules” included in our registration statement on Form S-1 filed with the SEC on October 7, 2021 for a more detailed discussion with respect to our PFIC status and the application of the PFIC rules. U.S. Holders of our Common Shares and Public Warrants are urged to consult their tax advisors regarding the application of the PFIC rules to them.

Canadian law and our Notice and Articles contain certain provisions, including anti-takeover provisions that limit the ability of shareholders to take certain actions and could delay or discourage takeover attempts that shareholders may consider favorable.

Provisions in our Notice of Articles and Articles, as well as certain provisions under the BCBCA and applicable Canadian laws, may discourage, delay or prevent a merger, acquisition or other change in control of TMC that shareholders may consider favorable, including transactions in which they might otherwise receive a premium for their Common Shares.

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For instance, our Notice of Articles and Articles contain provisions that establish certain advance notice procedures for nomination of candidates for election as directors at shareholders’ meetings.

Limitations on the ability to acquire and hold Common Shares may also be imposed by the Competition Act (Canada). This legislation permits the Commissioner of Competition, or Commissioner, to review any acquisition or establishment, directly or indirectly, including through the acquisition of shares, of control over or of a significant interest in TMC. Moreover, a non-Canadian must file an application for review with the Minister responsible for the Investment Canada Act and obtain approval of the Minister prior to acquiring control of a “Canadian business” within the meaning of the Investment Canada Act, where prescribed financial thresholds are exceeded.

Further, changes to critical minerals policies and regulations in Canada and the U.S. and elsewhere may impact our ability to conduct our businesses internationally, including processing and sales of minerals and metals, and the ability to negotiate or agree any merger, acquisition or change of control.

Our Notice of Articles and Articles provide that any derivative actions, actions relating to breach of fiduciary duties and other matters relating to our internal affairs will be required to be litigated in the Province of British Columbia, Canada, and will contain an exclusive federal forum provision for certain claims under the Securities Act, which could limit your ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us.

Our Notice of Articles and Articles include a forum selection provision that provides that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada and the appellate courts therefrom, will be the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf; (ii) any action or proceeding asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any of our directors, officers, or other employees to us; (iii) any action or proceeding asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the BCBCA or TMC Notice of Articles and Articles (as either may be amended from time to time); or (iv) any action or proceeding asserting a claim otherwise related to the relationships among us, our affiliates and their respective shareholders, directors and/or officers, but excluding claims related to our business or of such affiliates. The forum selection provision also provides that our securityholders are deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction in the Province of British Columbia and to service of process on their counsel in any foreign action initiated in violation of the foregoing provisions. The forum selection provision may impose additional litigation costs on securityholders in pursuing any such claims. This provision will not apply to suits brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, or the rules and regulations thereunder.

Section 22 of the Securities Act creates concurrent jurisdiction for federal and state courts over all claim brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act or the rules and regulations thereunder and our Notice and Articles will provide that the federal district courts of the U.S. will, to the fullest extent permitted by law, be the sole and exclusive forum for resolving any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act (the “Federal Forum Provision”). Application of the Federal Forum Provision means that suits brought by our securityholders to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act must be brought in federal court and cannot be brought in any state court.

Section 27 of the Exchange Act creates exclusive federal jurisdiction over all claims brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act or the rules and regulations thereunder. Accordingly, actions by our shareholders to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act or the rules and regulations thereunder must be brought in federal court. Our shareholders will not be deemed to have waived our compliance with the federal securities laws and the regulations promulgated thereunder.

Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring or holding any interest in any of our securities shall be deemed to have notice of and consented to the aforementioned forum selection provisions, including the Federal Forum Provision. Additionally, our securityholders cannot waive compliance with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. These provisions may limit our securityholders’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum they find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers, and other employees. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provision contained in our Notice and Articles to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could harm our business, operating results and financial condition.

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Our Notice and Articles permit us to issue an unlimited number of Common Shares and preferred shares without seeking approval of the holders of our Common Shares.

Our Notice of Articles and Articles permit us to issue an unlimited number of Common Shares. Subject to the requirements of the BCBCA and applicable securities exchange, we will not be required to obtain the approval of shareholders for the issuance of additional Common Shares. Any further issuances of Common Shares will result in immediate dilution to existing shareholders and may have an adverse effect on the value of their shareholdings.

The TMC Notice of Articles and Articles also permit us to issue an unlimited number of preferred shares, issuable in series and, subject to the requirements of the BCBCA, having such designations, rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions, including dividend and voting rights, as our board of directors may determine, and which may be superior to those of the Common Shares. The issuance of preferred shares could, among other things, have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a change in control and might adversely affect the market price of the Common Shares. Subject to the provisions of the BCBCA and the Nasdaq, we will not be required to obtain the approval of the holders of Common Shares for the issuance of preferred shares or to determine the maximum number of shares of each series of preferred shares, create an identifying name for each series and attach such special rights or restrictions as our board of directors may determine.

As a company incorporated in British Columbia with some of our directors and officers residing outside of the U.S., it may be difficult for investors in the U.S. to enforce civil liabilities against us based solely upon the federal securities laws of the U.S.

We are incorporated under the laws of British Columbia with our registered office located in British Columbia, Canada. Many of our directors and officers reside outside of the U.S. and all or a substantial portion of our assets and those of such persons are located outside the U.S. Consequently, it may be difficult for U.S. investors to effect service of process within the U.S. upon us or our directors or officers who are not residents of the U.S., or to realize in the U.S. upon judgments of courts of the U.S. predicated upon civil liabilities under the Securities Act. Investors should not assume that Canadian courts: (i) would enforce judgments of U.S. courts obtained in actions against us or such persons predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws or the securities or blue-sky laws of any state within the U.S. or (ii) would enforce, in original actions, liabilities against us or such persons predicated upon the U.S. federal securities laws or any such state securities or blue-sky laws.

Item 1B.UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.

Item 1C.CYBERSECURITY

We recognize the critical importance of maintaining the trust and confidence of investors, business partners and employees toward our business and are committed to protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of our business operations and systems. Our board of directors is involved in oversight of our risk management activities, and cybersecurity represents an important element of our overall approach to risk management. Our cybersecurity policies, standards, processes and practices are based on recognized frameworks established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In general, we seek to address cybersecurity risks through a comprehensive, cross-functional approach that is focused on preserving the confidentiality, security, and availability of the information that we collect and store by identifying, preventing and mitigating cybersecurity threats and effectively responding to cybersecurity incidents when they occur.

Cybersecurity Risk Management and Strategy; Effect of Risk

We face risks related to cybersecurity such as unauthorized access, cybersecurity attacks and other security incidents, including as perpetrated by hackers and unintentional damage or disruption to hardware and software systems, loss of data, and misappropriation of confidential information. To identify and assess material risks from cybersecurity threats, we maintain a comprehensive cybersecurity program to ensure our systems are effective and prepared for information security risks, including regular oversight of our programs for security monitoring for internal and external threats to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of our information assets. We consider risks from cybersecurity threats alongside other company risks as part of our overall risk assessment process.

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To mitigate these risks, we have implemented technology solutions that are designed to recognize anomalous activity and behavior on systems used by TMC employees, alongside other technical safeguards including:

Web Application Firewalls (WAF)
Intrusion detection systems
Antivirus
Endpoint protection and response
Security Event and Incident Management (SIEM)
Identity and Access management (IAM)
Multi-factor authentication

We utilize a third-party consultancy to provide services including security audits, CISO, risk management and response strategies. This consultancy provides the Chief Technology Officer, who is responsible for leading our cyber security strategy, guidance on policy, standards and processes alongside managing the risk management process.

We identify our cybersecurity threat risks by comparing our processes to standards set by the NIST, and the ISO specifically basing our policies and procedures on ISO27001 guidelines.

To provide for the availability of critical data and systems, maintain regulatory compliance, manage our material risks from cybersecurity threats, and protect against and respond to cybersecurity incidents, we undertake the following activities:

monitor emerging data protection laws and implement changes to our processes that are designed to comply with such laws;
through our policies, practices and contracts (as applicable), require employees, as well as third parties that provide services on our behalf, to treat confidential information and data with care;
employ technical safeguards that are designed to protect our information systems from cybersecurity threats, including firewalls, intrusion prevention and detection systems, anti-malware functionality and access controls, which are evaluated and improved through vulnerability assessments and cybersecurity threat intelligence;
provide regular, mandatory training for our employees and contractors regarding cybersecurity threats as a means to equip them with effective tools to address cybersecurity threats, and to communicate our evolving information security policies, standards, processes and practices;
conduct regular phishing email simulations for all employees and contractors with access to our email systems to enhance awareness and responsiveness to possible threats;
dark web scanning to determine any leaked credentials both corporate and personal for key employees.
leverage the NIST incident handling framework and our MSPs to help us identify, protect, detect, respond and recover when there is an actual or potential cybersecurity incident;
carry information security risk insurance that provides protection against the potential losses arising from a cybersecurity incident; and

Our incident response plan coordinates the activities we take to prepare for, detect, respond to and recover from cybersecurity incidents, which include processes to triage, assess severity for, escalate, contain, investigate and remediate the incident, as well as to comply with potentially applicable legal obligations and mitigate damage to our business and reputation.

As part of the above processes, we regularly engage with consultants, auditors and other third parties, including annually having a third-party review our cybersecurity program to help identify areas for continued focus, improvement and compliance.

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Our processes also address cybersecurity threat risks associated with our use of third-party service providers, including our suppliers and manufacturers or who have access to patient and employee data or our systems. In addition, cybersecurity considerations affect the selection and oversight of our third-party service providers. We perform diligence on third parties that have access to our systems, data or facilities that house such systems or data, and continually monitor cybersecurity threat risks identified through such diligence. Additionally, we generally require those third parties that could introduce significant cybersecurity risk to us to agree by contract to manage their cybersecurity risks in specified ways, and to agree to be subject to cybersecurity audits, which we conduct as appropriate.

We describe whether and how risks from identified cybersecurity threats, including as a result of any previous cybersecurity incidents, have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect us, including our business strategy, results of operations, or financial condition, under the heading “We are dependent upon information technology systems, which are subject to cyber threats, disruption, damage and failure” which disclosures are incorporated by reference herein.

In the last three fiscal years, we have not experienced any material cybersecurity incidents and the expenses we have incurred from cybersecurity incidents were immaterial. This includes penalties and settlements, of which there were none.

Cybersecurity Governance; Management

Cybersecurity is an important part of our risk management processes and an area of focus for our management. The audit committee of our board of directors is responsible for the oversight of risks from cybersecurity threats, as part of our Enterprise Risk Management system.  In the event of a cybersecurity incident that meets established reporting thresholds, our audit committee will receive prompt and timely information regarding such incident, as well as ongoing updates until it has been addressed.

Our cybersecurity risk management and strategy processes, which are discussed in greater detail above, are led by our Chief Technology Officer with guidance from external security consultant. Such individuals have collectively over 40 years of prior work experience in various roles involving managing information security, developing cybersecurity strategy, implementing effective information and cybersecurity programs, as well as relevant degrees and certifications, including Certified Information Security Manager and Certified CISO. These management team members are informed about and monitor the prevention, mitigation, detection, and remediation of cybersecurity incidents through their management of, and participation in, the cybersecurity risk management and strategy processes described above, including the operation of our incident response plan.

Item 2.PROPERTIES

NORI Contract Area

The information that follows relating to the NORI Contract Area of the CCZ is derived, for the most part, from, and in some instances is an extract from, the NORI Technical Report Summary prepared in compliance with the SEC Mining Rules. Portions of the following information are based on assumptions, qualifications and procedures which are not fully described herein. Reference should be made to the full text of the NORI Technical Report Summary, which has been incorporated by reference as Exhibit 96.1 to this Annual Report. The NORI Technical Report Summary is incorporated herein by reference and made a part hereof.  In the event that we determine that any modifying factors, estimates and other scientific and technical information in the report materially change, we may update or file a new technical report in the future. The NORI Contract Area is an exploration stage property.

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Location of the NORI Area and access

The NORI Contract Area is located within the CCZ of the northeast Pacific Ocean. The CCZ is located in international waters between Hawaii and Mexico. The western-end of the CCZ is approximately 1,000 kilometers south of the Hawaiian island group. From here, the CCZ extends almost 5,000 kilometers east-northeast, in an approximately 600 kilometers wide trend, with the eastern limits approximately 2,000 kilometers west of southern Mexico. The region is well-located to ship nodules to the American continent or across the Pacific to Asian markets. The NORI Contract Area comprises four separate blocks (A, B, C and D) in the CCZ with a combined area of 74,830 square kilometers.

Graphic

NORI Contract Area extents

    

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Latitude

Latitude

Longitude

Longitude

UTM X

UTM X

UTM Y

UTM Y

UTM

Area

    

(DD)

    

(DD)

    

(DD)

    

(DD)

    

(m)

    

(m)

    

(m)

    

(m)

    

Zone

A

11.5000

13.00000

(134.5830)

(133.8330)

545220.4

627276.0

1271339

1437255

8

B

13.5801

14.00000

(134.0000)

(133.2000)

607995.7

694759.8

1501590

1548425

8

C

 

12.0000

 

14.93500

 

(123.0000)

 

(120.5000)

 

500000.0

 

769458.3

 

1326941

 

1652649

 

10

D

 

9.8950

 

11.08333

 

(117.8167)

 

(116.0667)

 

410465.2

 

602326.1

 

1093913

 

1225353

 

11

DD — Decimal degrees, UTM — Universal Transverse Mercator map projection

As the CCZ deposit does not include any habitable land and is not near coastal waters, there is no requirement to negotiate access rights from landowners for seafloor collection operations. All personnel and material will be transported to the project area by ship.

See Section 3 of the NORI Technical Report Summary for further specific information of the location of the NORI Contract Area.

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Tenements and permits

See Business Regulations-The NORI Exploration Contract, Business Regulations-The NORI Sponsorship Agreement and Business Regulations- International Seabed Authority above for information related to tenements and permits in the NORI Contract Area.

NORI obligations and sponsorship

See Business Regulations-The NORI Exploration Contract, Business Regulations-The NORI Sponsorship Agreement above for information related to this agreement in the NORI Contract Area.

Royalties and taxes

See Business Regulations-Royalties and taxes above for information with respect to our obligations for royalties and taxes in the NORI Contract Area.

History of previous exploration activities in the NORI Contract Area

Prior to the implementation of UNCLOS, many offshore exploration campaigns were completed by international organizations and consortia. A number of at-sea trial collection operations were successfully carried out in the CCZ in the 1970s to test potential collection concepts. These system tests evaluated the performance of self-propelled and several towed collection devices, along with submersible pumps and airlift technology for lifting the nodules from the deep ocean floor to the support vessel. Certain pioneer investors include those entities that carried out substantial exploration in the CCZ prior to the entry into force of UNCLOS, as well as those entities that inherited such exploration data.

NORI Area D was originally explored by Arbeitsgemeinschaft Meerestechnisch Rohstoffe (“AMR”). AMR subsequently joined Ocean Management Inc. (“OMI”). The OMI consortium comprised Inco Ltd (Canada), AMR (Federal Republic of Germany), SEDCO Inc. (US), and Deep Ocean Mining Co. Ltd (Japan). OMI completed a successful trial collection operation in 1978. Hydraulic pumps, an air lift system, and towed collectors were tested in approximately 4,500 meters of water. Approximately 800 tonnes of nodules were recovered.

Kennecott consortium (now a division of Rio Tinto) first became seriously interested in seafloor polymetallic nodules in 1962 (Agarwal et al. 1979). In the 1970s, Kennecott developed and tested components and subsystems of a seafloor collection system, and also carried out significant polymetallic nodule metallurgical processing test work.

Using a different system to OMI, Ocean Mining Associates recovered approximately 500 tonnes of nodules during its trial collection in the 1970s.

Between 1969 and 1974, Deepsea Ventures Inc. carried out 16 survey cruises of three to four weeks’ duration each, to define the extent of the polymetallic nodule deposit discovered by them in 1969 in the CCZ. As reported by Deepsea Ventures Inc.:

“These activities included the taking of some 294 discrete samples, including the bulk dredging of some 164 tons of manganese nodules from some 263 dredge stations, 28 core stations and three grab sample stations, cutting of some 28 cores, approximately 1000 lineal miles of survey of seafloor recorded by television and still photography, etc. As a result, the deposit of nodules identified with the discovery has been proved to extend generally throughout the entire area (American Society of International Law, 1975).”

Also active in the CCZ was the Ocean Minerals Company (“OMCO”), comprising Amoco Minerals Co. (United States), Lockheed Missiles and Space Company Inc. (United States), Billiton International Metals BV, and dredging company Bos Kalis Westminster (Netherlands). In a program lasting 16 years, OMCO collected thousands of free-fall grab and box core samples of nodules from its claim area and carried out trial collection operations. Lockheed’s design efforts resulted in over 80 patents, a seafloor production system that consisted of a remote-controlled collector and crusher, a seafloor to surface slurry riser system, the first industrial-scale dynamic positioning system for a vessel, and a metallurgical processing plant.

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Upon making an application, the pioneer investors were required to submit sufficient data and information to enable designation of a reserved area based on the estimated commercial value. These sample data provide the basis of a database held by the ISA and were used initially to define the areas of the NORI application.

See Section 5 of the NORI Technical Report Summary for further specific information of the history of previous exploration of the NORI Contract Area.

Geology and sampling

Seafloor polymetallic nodules occur in all oceans, but the CCZ hosts a relatively high abundance of high Ni and Cu grade nodules. The CCZ seafloor forms part of the Abyssal Plains, which are the largest physiographic province on Earth.

The average depth of the seafloor in the Project Area is 3,800 to 4,200 meters. Overall, the seafloor slopes at approximately 0.57˚ (1 meter per kilometer) but the Abyssal Plains are traversed by ridges, with amplitude of 50 to 300 meters (maximum 1,000 meters) and wavelength of 1 to 10 kilometers. The Abyssal Plains are punctuated by extinct volcanoes rising 500 to 2,000 meters above the seafloor.

Seafloor polymetallic nodules rest on the seafloor at the seawater — sediment interface. Such nodules are composed of nuclei and concentric layers of manganese and iron hydroxides and are formed by precipitation of metals from the surrounding seawater and sediment pore waters. Nickel, cobalt and copper are also precipitated and occur within the structure of the manganese and iron minerals.

Nodules are abundant in abyssal areas with oxygenated bottom waters and low sedimentation rates (less than 10 cm per thousand years). Nodules generally range from about 1 to 12 cm in their longest dimension. Nodules of 1 to 5 cm are typically the most common in NORI Area D, where they have been classified as Type 1 nodules.

The specific conditions of the CCZ (water depth, latitude, and seafloor sediment type) are considered to be the key controls for the formation of polymetallic nodules.

Information on the mineralization within NORI Area D comprises a combination of sampling undertaken by NORI as well as free-fall grab sampler (“FFG”) and box core sampler (“BC”) data supplied by the ISA at the time of the NORI application and also supplied by the ISA to NORI in 2012. Additional regional data, assembled by the ISA as part of its Geological Model Project during 2008 to 2010 (“ISA 2010”), are available. The data provide significant coverage over NORI Area D and indicate a high abundance of nodules in this region, as has been confirmed by NORI’s exploration.

During the 2018 NORI campaign, 91% of nodules sampled were situated at surface. These include nodules on the surface and nodules with their top surfaces in the upper 1 cm of sediment. A few nodules were found at depth; most of these were usually clustered around the edges of the box core and are considered to have been pushed below surface by the box coring process. Significant nodule abundance below surface was only recorded in one out of 45 samples. The nodules vary in abundance, in some cases touching one another and covering more than 70% of the seafloor. They can occur at any depth, but the highest concentrations have been found on abyssal plains between 4,000 and 6,000 mbsl. Data analysis in Section 9 of the NORI Technical Report Summary shows that nodule abundance variability is significantly higher than metal grades, suggesting that abundance estimation will be the key variable in mineral resource estimation.

NORI completed offshore exploration campaigns in 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019 and 2020. During these campaigns a variety of data was collected including:

bathymetric mapping of most of NORI Areas A, B and C and all of NORI Area D using a hull-mounted Kongsberg Simrad EM120 12 kHz, full-ocean depth multibeam echo-sounding system (MBES). This system also provided backscatter data with which seafloor characteristics could be interpreted;
detailed seafloor survey work with an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), utilizing an MBES, Side Scan Sonar (SSS), Sub-Bottom Profiler (SBP), and camera payload; and
a total of 252 box core samples collected using a 0.75 square meters box corer, mainly on a 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers square grid were used for resource evaluation.

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The nodules in the box cores were collected, and their characteristics measured and recorded in detail. Samples of nodules were collected in duplicate and assayed at two reputable, well-qualified laboratories: ALS and Bureau Veritas. Certified reference material, and blank samples were inserted to provide additional levels of quality control. No significant issues were identified with the assay results.

The backscatter data and the sidescan sonar and seafloor photography indicate strong continuity of nodule abundance across NORI Area D. There is a clear relationship between nodule long axis length and nodule weight and therefore it is possible to estimate nodule abundance from photographs. Several estimation techniques were tested, and methodologies were developed that are suitable for closely-packed (Type 1) and less closely-packed (Type 2 and 3) nodules.

For more information about the NORI exploration campaigns in 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019 and 2020, see Section 7 of the NORI Technical Report Summary.

Mineral resource estimate

The mineral resource was classified on the basis of the quality and uncertainty of the sample data and sample spacing, in accordance with the definitions of “inferred mineral resource,” “indicated mineral resource” and “measured mineral resource” under the SEC Mining Rules.

Mineral resources were estimated using a two-dimensional block model. Estimates of nodule abundance and nickel, manganese, cobalt, and copper grades were performed using kriging. A variety of methods was used to validate the estimates, including conditional simulation. The estimates of nodule abundance were used to calculate the tonnage of the mineral resources.

The bathymetric mapping enabled the interpretation of parts of seafloor that are possibly too steep for recovery of nodules using the systems considered by the NORI Technical Report Summary. Seafloor areas with slopes steeper than 6° were excised from the mineral resource estimate.

The measured mineral resource was assigned to the area within NORI Area D where box-core sampling was conducted on a nominal 7 kilometers by 7 kilometers spacing and infilled with estimates of nodule abundance from seafloor photography to a spacing of 3.5 kilometers by 3.5 kilometers.

The indicated mineral resource was assigned to the area within NORI Area D where box-core sampling was conducted on a nominal spacing of 7 kilometers by 7 kilometers or 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers but without additional photo-estimates of nodule abundance.

The inferred mineral resource was assigned to the areas of abyssal plain in the southeast corner of NORI Area D that are largely unsampled. The volcanic high in the southeast corner was excluded from the mineral resource estimate due to the high level of uncertainty about nodule abundance and grades in this domain.

The mineral resource estimate for NORI Area D at a 4 kilogram/square meters abundance cut-off is set forth below. This cut-off is derived from the estimates of costs and revenues presented in the NORI Technical Report Summary, generalized as follows: 1.7 Mt minimum annual tonnage mined; $0.25 million/square kilometers for offshore operating costs; 1,036 square kilometers collected area processed; $95/dry tonne for transport costs; $119/dry tonne for processing costs; $15/dry tonne for corporate, general and administrative costs; $33/dry tonne for ISA and state royalties; 95% recovery of nickel at an assumed price of nickel metal $16,472/t; 86% recovery of copper at an assumed price of $6,872/t copper metal; 77% recovery of cobalt at an assumed price of $46,333/t cobalt metal; and 99% recovery of manganese at an assumed price of $4.50/dmtu manganese in manganese silicate. The method of calculation for the cut-off determines the minimum average nodule abundance needed during steady state operations such that the revenue minus costs (excluding capital) is greater than zero. Revenue includes metal pricing and metallurgical processing recoveries, and the costs include the collection, transport, processing, corporate costs and royalties.

The estimated mineral resources were determined in 2021 as of December 31, 2020 and also reflect the estimated mineral resources as of December 31, 2023, as none of the mineral resources in these areas were depleted by mining or any other activities.

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NORI December 31, 2023 In-Situ Mineral Resource estimate for NORI Area D at 4 kg/m2 abundance cut-off

    

Tonnes

Abundance

Nickel

Copper

Cobalt

Manganese

Silicon

NORI Area

    

Category

    

(Mt (wet))

    

(wet kg/m2)

    

(%)

    

(%)

    

(%)

    

(%)

    

(%)

D

 

Measured

 

4

 

18.6

 

1.42

 

1.16

 

0.13

 

32.2

 

5.13

D

 

Indicated