UK Government sponsors Lockheed Martin UK subsidiary for licence to harvest Polymetallic Nodules

LONDON, UK, March 14, 2013 - UK Seabed Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin UK, in partnership with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, has received a licence and contract to explore a 58,000 sq kilometre area of the Pacific for mineral-rich polymetallic nodules.  

These tennis ball sized nodules, found approximately four kilometres beneath the ocean’s surface, can provide millions of tonnes of copper, nickel, cobalt and manganese, as well as rare earth minerals, that are used in the construction, aerospace, alternative energy, and communications industries, among others.

Harvesting polymetallic nodules will provide the UK supply chain with opportunities to build on its North Sea oil and gas expertise and has the potential to contribute approximately £40 billion to the UK national economy, over a 30 year period.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The award of this exploration licence to UK Seabed Resources is excellent news for British companies and British scientists, and the Government is extremely pleased to have supported it.

“The UK is leading the way in this exciting new industry which has the potential to create specialist and supply chain jobs across the country and is expected to be worth up to £40bn to the UK economy over the next 30 years. With our technology, skills, scientific and environmental expertise at the forefront, this demonstrates that the UK is open for business as we compete in the global race."

Seabed harvesting is an ecologically sound method for meeting the growing global demand for precious metals, as well as supporting economic growth. UK Seabed Resources is focused on the collection of polymetallic nodules and not manganese crusts which are found on hydrothermal vents.

“Environmentally responsible collection of polymetallic nodules presents a complex engineering challenge, but our team has the knowledge and experience necessary to help position the UK at the forefront of this emerging industry,” said Stephen Ball, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin UK and UK Seabed Resources.

“We are offering British companies, research institutions and academia exciting opportunities to become involved in this cutting edge business,” said Stephen Ball.

Seabed mining, beyond any nation’s territorial waters, is governed by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It has responsibility for overseeing all legal and environmental matters associated with the collection of particles from the ocean floor.

UK Seabed Resources is working closely with UK government departments and research institutions on environmental and industrial elements of the project.

“One of the most important responsibilities of the Authority is to develop rules, regulations and procedures for the protection of the marine environment from adverse impacts of mining,” said Nii Odunton, Secretary General of the ISA.

“I am particularly pleased that UK Seabed Resources has not only placed an appropriate emphasis on detailed environmental baseline studies, but has indicated a willingness to do so in close collaboration with the Authority

Collecting polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor, given the depth at which they are found and the technological challenges of working several kilometres beneath the ocean’s surface, has previously been uneconomic. Today, technologies specifically developed for working in space, autonomous air and underwater vehicles for the offshore oil industry have changed this dynamic.

From a depth of 4,000 metres, nodules can be brought to the surface using a combination of remotely operated or autonomous underwater vehicles, pumps, suction and riser pipes.

British scientists from the National Oceanography Centre and Natural History Museum are among those attending a seabed mining environmental workshop in London today and will be commissioned to carry out assessments of deep sea ecosystems. They will be participating in an environmental cruise in the Pacific, late summer, part of UK Seabed Resources’ baseline studies to progress its exploration licence.

Around 100 potential UK supply chain partners are attending a seabed harvesting workshop in London, March 14, to explore opportunities for their own involvement.

UK Seabed Resources has submitted an application for a second exploration licence, covering a separate geographical area, which will be considered by the ISA in July.

Headquartered in London, Lockheed Martin UK, part of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is a leader in systems integration, working on major programmes spanning the aerospace, defence and civil sectors.  Lockheed Martin UK works with more than 100 business partners and employs some 2,500 people at sites across the UK.

Lockheed Martin Corporation is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services.  The Corporation’s net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion.

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Polymetallic Nodules

UK Seabed Resources has received a licence and contract to explore a 58,000 sq kilometre area of the Pacific for mineral-rich polymetallic nodules.

Media contact:

  Phil Rood
  +44 0 207 979 8080
  phil.rood@lmco.com