Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law on Jan. 3, US President Joe Biden has directed the House Armed Services Committee to submit a report on the domestic processing of seafloor polymetallic nodules.
The Pentagon will deliver a report assessing deep-sea mining by March 1.
Last month, 31 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon urging the Department of Defense to “explore every avenue to strengthen our rare earth and critical mineral supply chains”, emphasizing “the importance of evaluating and planning for seabed mining as a new vector of competition…”
In November 2023, a bipartisan coalition led by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced a resolution urging the US Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They argued that sitting out risks letting the rest of the world dictate maritime agendas, from seabed mining to critical subsea infrastructure.
The NDAA underscores the need to intensify efforts in response to foreign adversaries, especially China.
“In recent years, China has taken aggressive and brazen steps to secure and process seabed resources of polymetallic nodules into strategic planning for national security,” the document reads.
Currently, Chinese companies hold more International Seabed Authority contracts (five out of 31 for exploration and development) than any other country. The committee notes that the US has none.
China is investing heavily in deep-sea mining technology, including remotely operated vehicles, vessels, and sonar scanning systems.
“To counter China’s growing hold on the global supply chain, it is essential that the United States secures its own innovative supply of critical and strategic minerals and materials, including polymetallic nodules, to decrease reliance on sources from foreign adversaries,” members of Congress wrote.
Shares of deep-sea mining exploration company The Metals Company (NASDAQ: TMC) rose 8.4% on Thursday after Biden signed the NDAA, bringing the Canadian-based company’s market cap to $354 million.