DeepGreen to go public in $2.9bn SPAC deal
DeepGreen Metals, an EV battery metals maker, has revealed it will be acquired by Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp (SOAC) in a $2.9bn deal consisting of a $330mn private investment from investors along with Allseas, adding to the list of existing strategic investors such as Maersk Supply Service and Glencore.
DeepGreen has developed a process for producing metals from polymetallic nodules with near-zero solid waste, eliminating the need for tailings dams on land.
DeepGreen is developing a new, scalable source of EV battery metals in the form of polymetallic nodules found unattached on the seafloor in the Pacific Ocean. The estimated resource on the seafloor in the exploration contract areas held by the company’s subsidiaries is sufficient for 280 million EVs - a quarter of the global passenger car fleet.
The development of this resource offers an abundant, low-cost supply of critical raw materials for EV batteries and wiring including nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese, with a lower lifecycle ESG impact than conventional mining. Ensuring this critical supply of battery metals is essential to the transition from internal combustion engines to EVs, which faces the following risks:
- A slump in discovery of new metal deposits is widely expected to lead to shortages in key metals such as nickel and copper from 2024-2025 onwards.
- Rising raw materials prices risk undermining EV manufacturers’ efforts to drive down the cost of EV batteries necessary for mass adoption.
- Like fossil fuel extraction, conventional metals extraction comes at a steep cost to people and the planet, leading to vast deforestation in some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. This is generating the world’s largest industrial waste stream and gigatons of emissions, poisoning ecosystems and people’s health, and driving potential labour exploitation including child labour.
SOAC, a so-called special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), raised $300mn in an initial public offering in May last year. SPACs are shell companies which raise funds to pursue an acquisition at a later date. It serves as an alternative to a traditional IPO for companies looking to enter public markets. The combined entity will be listed under the new ticker symbol “TMC”.
Gerard Barron, DeepGreen Chairman and CEO, commented: "We are excited to partner with SOAC, an ESG-driven team that does not shy away from tough problems. The reality is that the clean energy transition is not possible without taking billions of tons of metal from the planet. Seafloor nodules offer a way to dramatically reduce the environmental bill of this extraction.
“We are getting into this industry with a deep commitment to ocean health and a clear stop date in mind. The plan is simple: produce better metals to supply the EV transition, while building up enough metal stock to stop extracting from the planet and enable society to live off recycled metals.”
DeepGreen Metals Inc. is a Canadian developer of lower-impact battery metals from seafloor polymetallic nodules, on a dual mission: (1) supply metals for the clean energy transition with the least possible negative environmental and social impact and (2) accelerate the transition to a circular metal economy. The company through its subsidiaries holds exploration and commercial rights to three polymetallic nodule contract areas in the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean sponsored by the governments of Nauru, Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga, which are regulated by the International Seabed Authority.
Mining investors demanding sustainability
Mining company shareholders are demanding change from an industry whose reputation has been battered by deadly collapses of mine waste storage facilities in Brazil, and Rio Tinto’s destruction of sacred rock shelters in Australia, report Reuters.
Companies are responding with changes to the structure and skillset of their senior management - a shift investors and governance experts say is sorely needed to mitigate risk in an inherently hazardous industry.
“The level of understanding and capability at board level is insufficient at the moment in the mining sector, and it doesn’t yet in our view support the transition of these companies to best practice,” Andy Jones, metals and mining lead at investment manager Federated Hermes, said.
Brazil’s Vale SA - keen to show its dedication to safety and sustainability after two tailings dam failures in less than four years - recently announced the biggest shakeup in its board since it was privatised in 1997.
Seven of the 13 members of the new board set for approval this month have extensive experience in ESG and sustainability-related issues, up from five previously. The company has also added requirements for nominees to have experience in community relations.
AngloGold Ashanti last year appointed as a non-executive director a mining governance adviser to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Kojo Busia, after the board identified the need to increase its efficacy in ESG oversight, it told Reuters.
Barrick Gold also bolstered its ESG credentials with the appointment of World Bank executive director Anne Kabagambe to its board in November, highlighting her experience in international development.
Some miners have also begun tying executives’ and directors’ bonuses directly to measurable ESG outcomes. Rio Tinto has connected 15% of executives’ annual bonuses to ESG metrics for the first time.
Bonuses for the director of Vale’s executive board for safety are calculated based only on health, safety, and sustainability indicators.
But companies must also improve internal reporting and foster a culture of openness if the industry is to prevent a repeat of past mistakes, governance experts say.
“The remuneration is obviously key in terms of setting incentives, but that on its own doesn’t work unless the board is getting the quality of information and there is a spirit of independent thought and challenge,” said Joanna Hewitt, a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie in London who advises companies on corporate governance.
For boards to exercise proper oversight, directors need access to information that bypasses management, Daniel Smith, a governance advisor with CGI Glass Lewis, told Reuters last November.
To achieve that, a specialist heritage advisor reporting directly to the board could be appointed, or a board could have an ESG subcommittee responsible for stakeholder management, including of traditional owners, he said.
To help investors track their progress, mining companies must publish more data on issues like community engagement, water and air quality, and rehabilitation and closure plans, said Charlotte Valeur, founder of governance advisory firm Global Governance Group.
As a result of investor pressure, more mining companies are reporting so-called scope 3 emissions data, a measure of downstream CO2 emissions by metal consumers. Data transparency is key, says Valeur.
“It has to be deeds, not words,” she said. “What it’s easy to do is have some fluff - but what we want is hard numbers.”