Environmental Sustainability: An Earth Friendly Way to Get the Resources We Need
Earth is our home, and future generations need its resources in order to survive and thrive. It’s crucial we move off of reliance on dirty energy and towards renewable energy. To create the physical resources for battery, wind and solar power, we need metal, but common metal mining practices cause huge negative impacts. Gerard Barron and Dr. Greg Stone with DeepGreen join our host, Daniel Schmachtenberger, to define environmental sustainability and discuss how it can coincide with economic growth and prosperity. Join us as we journey through DeepGreen’s method of ocean mining, what they’re doing to minimize their environmental impact, and their development goals to no longer need to mine metals within 70-80 years.
In This Episode We Discussed:
2:42 Moving away from dependency on fossil fuels
6:23 Base metals provide material for battery, wind and solar power
13:27 Process of ocean mining
14:32 Environmental impact of mining the ocean
22:08 Why Dr. Greg Stone moved from work in ocean conservation to mining for natural resources
25:27 Setting an example for corporations to prioritize global public good
31:47 Pillars of corporate sustainability and evolution of sustainability in businesses
35:05 Sustainable development goals including using all recycled metals within 70-80 years
39:17 Economic growth alongside earth friendly acquisition of natural resources
45:03 Negative impacts of ocean mining
47:03 Get involved in the work of DeepGreen
49:41 Upgrading our economic system: Benefits of a closed loop materials economy
54:52 The ocean has abundant natural resources
58:09 How were the metal nodules developed and how does DeepGreen collect them?
1:02:12 Creating demand for the cleaner sourced metals
1:05:28 Informing consumers on where their metals come from
1:07:40 Raising the bar for the entire supply chain
1:09:47 How you can contribute to the work DeepGreen is doing
What Price Sustainability Dr. Greg Stone’s piece in the ECONOMIST
Head of Environment and Social Responsibility at DeepGreen, Dr. Samantha Smith
International Seabed Authority
Pillars of Sustainability
Closed-Loop Materials Economy
Human Consciousness and Environmental Sustainability: An episode on Collective Insights with Steven Kotler
The Benefits of Human Sovereignty in our Economic System: An episode on Collective Insights with Jordan Hall
Full Episode Transcript:
Daniel:Okay, welcome everyone to another episode of Collective Insights. This is a slightly different kind of interview than we’ve ever done. A different dialogue because we are dialoguing with people who run a company. We’ve never really kind of focused on the work of a company before. But it’s a company that is in an emerging space, it’s doing something interesting enough at the intersection of several very large-scale planetary needs. That I just want to be in this conversation and explore the mission of what they’re doing. What this new kind of emerging industry is, the problems that is seeking to solve. How it is making steps and the direction of some larger-scale civilization redesign topics. So yeah, this should be fun. I’ve been looking forward to this show for some months.
Daniel:So we have here with us Gerard Barron. Gerard is the CEO of a company called DeepGreen. We’ve made friends a number of months ago and I’ve been in the exploration on this topic since. DeepGreen is an ocean metals mining company, which may sound like the strangest thing for me to be talking about, for us to be discussing here. But it will unfold and you’ll see why. The question of how do we get the materials we need to build the future of the world and what things are actually worth building? What kind of materials do we need to get? How do we do that in environmental friendly way? It’s also can get funded. Those are very interesting, surprisingly interesting topics here. We have Gerard with us who is the CEO of this project. Has really a mission-oriented project.
Daniel:We have Dr. Greg Stone with us, who is the head ocean scientist for the project. Who’s one of the top ocean conservation scientist in the world. Was a decade at Conservation International. Created the Healthy Ocean’s Index and after all the work and academics and non-profit, realized that this was an interesting enough opportunity to come join the team and be heading up the environmental safety and due diligence. So really delighted to have you both here with us today.
Gerard Barron:Thank you, Daniel.
Greg Stone:Thank you.
Daniel:Okay, so just to dive right in, why ocean mining of base metals?
Gerard Barron:I think it’s a good question and a lot of people don’t actually think of the fundamental role that metals play in society today. There’s a growing sense that we need to make some drastic moves to change the direction of our environment, of planet, the impact of global warming. Of course, as a result of that, people come up with initiatives like let’s move away from fossil fuels. Now, if you had asked me what our one mission was, is to facilitate society moving away from the dependency upon the fossil fuels. So, of course, people often think okay, so fossil fuels, transportation. Let’s attack transportation first. It would be beneficial if everyone drives an electric vehicle. But it’s not that simple. Of course, electric vehicle require a new form of energy and that’s called the battery. Of course, what goes into a battery are metals, in particular, base metals like nickel and cobalt and manganese and of course, lots of copper.
Gerard Barron:So these issues are often not talked about at a macro level. But if we think about the macro solution to a more sustainable society, it means moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Totally rethinking where all the metals that are going to be required come from. When you add up all of these demanding packs like electrifying the transport fleet and there’s no point of us electrifying cars if we’re having to fire up more coal-powered fire stations. So I’ve got some horrible examples of that. So we need to be thinking about renewable energy and of course, renewable energy requires metals to build the wind turbines and the solar panels.
Gerard Barron:But then you need to be able to store that energy in a form such that you can use it at non-peak times. So all of a sudden, when you put all of these demand factors with the fact that society is expanding, more people on the planet. We all want to live longer. Just the impact of us living another five years life expectancy, let alone 10 or 20. The demand that that puts on these extractive industry is enormous. What people haven’t necessarily thought about is where are we going to get these metals from?
Gerard Barron:So it’s an amazing story, the DeepGreen one and ocean metal full stop because what we’ve discovered is that mother nature made a very abundant supply of all the metals we require for a more sustainable planet. They happen to sit on the bottom our ocean floor. They sit there as beautiful little bundles of potato-sized rocks that are unattached, they’re sitting clusters that are waiting to be collected. They happen to have everything we need to drive renewable energy and electric vehicles. It’s quite a magical story I think. They’re not full of gold or they’re not full of silver because I have a view that we shouldn’t be mining for gold. There’s enough gold in society and the environmental impact of mining for gold is a horrible one. But we do need more base metals.
Gerard Barron:So yeah, it’s almost a romantic story, Daniel.
Daniel:Yeah, I think it is. So one of the things it’s interesting, I’ll just kind of restate the obvious here. So we’re wanting to switch off coal and oil. That means changing transportation, changing energy generation. Everyone’s focused, we want that for climate change. But it’s also that the mining of coal is one of the renaissance for the planet. It’s also that the fracking to get oils and gases causes problems. It’s also that we fight wars and destabilize whole political regimes over oil. So when you really let alone pipeline, breaks, and supertanker spills and all of these things. So getting off of coal and oil is a radical change in the whole global complex. It changes the environment, it changes economics, it changes politics, work.
Daniel:Everybody knows it’s going to take a lot of solar cells, a lot of wind turbines, a lot of batteries and that requires metals. We’re just like, we’ll get those somewhere. Then we start to recognize that the mining of the metals on land is its own set of environmental problems. So will you tell us about that a little bit?
Gerard Barron:Well, I think the other amazing thing about ocean metals is how they form. They form in a very different way. They grow in the ocean. Well, firstly, there are three forms of ocean metals. You have sulfides. Sulfides form on land like they form in the ocean in the same way. Lots of volcanogenic activity and these little vents that come up through the core of the earth. So when scientist discovered these sulfides forming in the ocean, they were fascinated because they got to understand how they formed on land. But the negative is to get access to them, you have mine them. You have to go down there with big machines and turn big rocks into little rocks.
Gerard Barron:The other form, there are these sea fall crusts. These crusts also require mining because they’re attached to the ocean floor. Then the third form are these nodules. Nodules that just lie unattached on the ocean floor. How the nodules form is through a precipitation process. So they actually grow out of the metals that are contained in the ocean water. Of course, how metals are in the ocean are two ways. One is through the erosion of the many millions of years, the Rockies and Andes were covered in nickel and copper. As the ice caps all melted, lots of that was eroded into our oceans as were rivers very responsible. Then you have these vents coming up through the floor of the earth that is emitting these metals into the ocean. So our nodules grow out of the metals that are there.
Gerard Barron:So when you compare that with land-based mining, is very different. In land-based mining, you’re looking for grades of nickel and copper that are very, very small. So let’s talk about the world’s largest copper mine, it’s in Chile. The grades of copper that they’re looking for are less than 1% now. In fact, it’s forecast it would be 0.6 of 1% would be the average grade. That means for you’ve got to dig 1000 kilos of dirt. You’ve got to move that and treat it and put it in nasty conditions and generate lots of tailings that require keeping forever. You’re looking for six kilograms of copper. Not only that but that particular asset happens to be 3000 meters above sea level. They ran out of water, so they had to build desalination plants, which of course, impacts that environment. Then you’ve got to pump the water 3000 meters up the hill and then you’ve got to treat. So it’s a very energy-intensive, a very environmentally damaging process.
Gerard Barron:Then that’s for the established ones. Then, of course, we’re looking around for new ones to meet these future demands. Let’s talk about nickel. There’s been lots of talk about batteries and their chemistry and of course, at the moment, some manufacturers are using a one, one, one. Which means in the nickel, manganese, cobalt chemistry it’s one part nickel to one part cobalt, one part manganese. The other manufacturers have already moved to an eight, one, one. They will move a nine, 0.5, 0.5, which means nine parts nickel. Are putting a lesser dependency on cobalt and manganese. So all of a sudden, the world’s scratching their heads thinking where are we going to get this nickel from? Of course, most of the nickel deposits on land tend to be on laterite zones. So lots of leaching, wet conditions happens to be where we grow around trees as well. So you’ve only got to go to Indonesia or around the [inaudible] to see what’s happening there. Where forests are just being ripped down to get access to these assets. Of course, they tend to be treated in a very energy-intensive and nasty way, nickel laterites as well.
Gerard Barron:So when you start to benchmark the impact of the need to relocate communities, the need to put all of this infrastructure in, which comes at an environmental cost as well. Then, of course, the devastation that begins and continues. It’s a nasty tale quite frankly. As opposed to we have these or the ocean has these wonderful nodules sitting on the seafloor. You know the amazing thing about these nodules is that when we process them, we generate zero tailings. So, before when I use the example of this copper mine in Chile. They dig up 1000 kilograms and they’re looking for six kilograms of copper. The other 900+ kilograms something has to be done with it. Some of it goes into a tailings down but it has to be moved and shaken and whatever.
Gerard Barron:Whereas, when we put 1000 kilograms of nodules into our processing facility, we generate 1000 kilograms of product, sellable material. Just think about that, what that means to a closed-loop economy, which is where we want to be moving towards. Where we waste less, where we generate material that we recycle and use again and again. So every single part of these ocean floor nodules is usable materials. So I think it’s a signal of how we should be doing things in the future.
Daniel:So on land, we’ve got this stuck between a rock and a hard place scenario, where we either have to stick with coal and oil or to get the metals to move to a clean tech infrastructure. The metals are underneath equatorial rainforests and produce 1000 parts toxic by-products per six-part actual usable product. So that’s actually a pretty terrible theory of trade-offs. I think it’s not commonly known how much base metal demand has to increase to make the new clean energy infrastructure. That’s a big deal, we’re talking about a lot of batteries to be able to have intermittent energy generations. Solar that’s only on sometimes and wind only sometimes have on-demand energy all the time. It’s a lot of freaking batteries. That we actually have a material’s acquisition issue here. So we need a more environmentally friendly method in materials acquisition. So now the question comes, is the ocean metal mining actually more environmentally friendly? You said these nodules are just kind of sitting on the top of the ocean floor.
Daniel:So I’ll switch questions now to Greg and say you’ve been focused on ocean conservation for your whole career. What do you think, can you give us an overview of the zone where these are coming from, the environmental impact to the ocean. How well do we know this? I think so many people I’m sure you’ve been experiencing, who identify as caring about the environment and would want to not rip up equatorial land and produce toxic tailings. But also just kind of instinctively object to the idea of mining the oceans. So talk to us about this.
Greg Stone:Sure. Well, let me if I may just back up a little bit and sort of offer a frame for this discussion, which I think you were starting this off of. That is I like to look at it in terms of industrial revolutions on the planet. If you go back in time, you’d find that major changes in the industry have been usually dependent upon changes in technology or changes in the resource use. The whole industrial revolution over the last couple of 100 years was based on the ability of us to unlock this energy from fossil fuels. Therefore, fuel factories and a whole transformation of our economy and how we do business. That came at a cost, it was a lot of unintended consequences that happened along those lines. Now, as we look into the future, I think the way to think about the next industrial revolution is what parts of the earth are unique and what parts will fuel this next industrial revolution? I would argue that it is these metals.
Greg Stone:Probably the last thing the earth has to offer that we haven’t come up with an alternative for. Basically, if you go along over the history and you’ve things like wood. You’ve got materials sciences, we keep innovating and replacing things that we normally got from the earth. Then we came to energy solutions. Now, we’re finding that no, we don’t have to burn fossil fuels. We can capture the mechanical motion of waves and wind and the solar electromagnetic energy from the sun. The problem is storage and that’s where these base metals come as probably the last thing that the earth has to offer us. Now, the idea of going to the bottom of the ocean, a place I’ve spent quite a bit of time actually, to acquire these metals, makes all the sense in the world to me. The concentrations are much higher. You essentially have three or four mines in one. On land, you’ve got to go to a nickel mine, a copper mine, a manganese mine.
Greg Stone:These nodules formations are remarkable, in that they’ve acquired all of these metals. This doesn’t happen on land, you don’t get this coincidence like accumulation of metals in one place. So already you’ve got this efficiency of mining sites happening. Then the question then comes. Okay, what are you doing to the environment? You can look at that two ways. One is the biodiversity loss or destruction. The other one is the ecosystem function. In both cases, the ocean scores are better than land from my point of view in terms of destruction that you cause. The place in the ocean where we’re finding … By the way, these nodules occur in various formulations all over the planet. We’re still learning exactly where they are and what the different constituencies of them can be. But the ones that we’re focused on right now are in an area called the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, which it’s an area of high seas. Which means that everybody in the planet owns it in the sort of about 1000 miles west of Mexico.
Greg Stone:On the bottom of the ocean is fairly flat and if you were to drive around there in a submarine, which I have done, it looks like kind of a flat desert. There’s just a lot of sand and it’s fine sediment. Then these nodules have formed in the bottom sediment. So we just pick them up, there’s no blasting, there’s no chemicals used and bring to surface. Then turned them into … We grind them and send through a couple of patterned processes, where we end up with very little to no waste.
Greg Stone:So it’s a bit of a long story but the short story is that when you go on land you’re essentially releasing carbon from forests and from the soil. You’re displacing tigers and lions and bears. There’s these rainforests have a lot of these [mega farm 00:19:22], these very large charismatic [mega farm 00:19:24] which you don’t have in deep-sea. We do have some remarkable fish and worms and sea urchins and things like that, which I don’t want to diminish. I’m a marine biologist, I love those guys. But it’s really a different complexion all together when you’re down there. We’re not talking about vibrant coral reefs, we’re not talking about herds of tuna or whales. We’re talking about a very deep, dark, very monotonous kind of a place. The impact from an ecological point of view is localized. It’s not going to spread throughout an ocean basin and cause all kinds of change. It probably is going to settle down after well certainly the initial disruption of taking these things up. Will settle down after a few days or weeks. The longer-term disruption if you can even call that, would settle down certainly within months.
Greg Stone:Now the nodules themselves take many millions of years to form so you’re not going to recreate those. But there’s plenty of them there and the habitat in which they exist, in which they provide homes for other animals will still exist down there at the bottom of the ocean. So it’s an intervention that will have long-term consequences. But compared to land, it’s an order of magnitude less.
Daniel:So I’m curious. If you would just take a moment and share what you were doing before coming here. What the Conservation International work is? I think that creates a very interesting context to say why shift from that to this?
Daniel:Why someone who cares about ocean conservation, would you focus on its mining?
Greg Stone:Well, Daniel, I started off my career as a pretty straight and narrow oceanographer. I did a lot of deep-sea work. One of the reasons I ended up caring about the ocean was some dives that I did in the sea of Japan in the early 90s. I was down at 18000 feet and we were actually studying the epicenter of an earthquake that had occurred there. I was onboard this little three-man submarine to look at the biology. But what struck me more than the biology was the human waste that I found at that depth. Here’s a place literally had not seen the literally had not seen the light of day for billions of years. Already, there was plastic toothbrushes, there was cigarette lighters, there was all these stuff on the seafloor.
Greg Stone:This was back before the two words marine and conservation had really been put together in one sentence. It was in early days and we really did believe the delusion was the solution. That we really wasn’t all that much to worry about. Well, I did begin to worry and I translated my work from a pretty straight oceanography to finding ways for humanity and the oceans to coexist and support each other in this modern world. That led me to working on the creation of some of the world’s first marine protected areas. I was the architect of this area called the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the central Pacific, the size of California. It was the first large-scale open ocean place that we set aside and didn’t do anything to. Let the ocean go back to what it was used to doing. That led me to work for Conservation International, a large international NGO. I was their chief scientist and head of their ocean program.
Greg Stone:I learned from my work there that if you’re going to make a change, you have to change the behavior of society, you have to change the behavior of people. In industrial scale, that means changing the behavior of businesses. Businesses is where literally the rubber meets the road in our world. It’s where we as humans consolidate our activities and have impact for better or for worse on our societies and on our planet and everything that happens on this earth. So I learned a very important lesson at Conservation International. That if you really want to create long-term change, you’ve got to get into the business cycle. That’s why the opportunity to work with DeepGreen literally helped shape the future of this whole sector was irresistible to me. I’d spent decades kind of standing on the outside, pointing in at businesses, suggesting what they could, what they might not do. Now, I have an opportunity to be inside a business and help direct it’s future.
Greg Stone:So it’s a very logical continuation of my work, probably the most important work I’ll end up doing actually.
Daniel:Yeah, so you and I spoke a couple times on the environmental due diligence so far.
Daniel:I’ll just kind of share as an overview and recap for listeners here. So as Greg is saying, it’s not that there’s no environmental impact but humans living on the planet and extracting stuff to build things that we want has an environmental impact. We haven’t figured that one yet. That will be actually a later part of the conversation we have, which is how we figure that out going forward. But given that we definitely need to transition off of coal and oil, given that there are material requirement of that, that aren’t otherwise feasible. Given that the relative environmental impact in the ocean as opposed to land seems to be meaningfully better. Then all that’s very compelling.
Daniel:Now when I was looking at the environmental [DD] and Greg’s chief scientist here but there’s a couple of other oceanographers that are deeply experienced in ocean mining and other topics like that. I was surprised actually, at how much environmental due diligence has been done so far for a company as early a stage relative this is. But then whenever I was asking questions where they were like we don’t have the answers yet. But we are working on getting those as soon as we keep being able to expand the research teams to do it. These are conversations Gerard and I have had many times, which is what if we find that it actually has worse impact than we think? You’ve taken the investment and you get to that place. It’s like we’re holding the control to be able to change things.
Daniel:So this is where it gets very compelling for me. Is that there are fewer other companies that I know of that are working in the ocean metals mining space, don’t hold ocean conservation as a very high value at all. Given that the market demand is going to drive this, I would rather see companies that actually care and are actually investing a lot in environmental mitigation. Being able to figure those things out as they come. So yeah, just a quick note on that topic.
Gerard Barron:Yeah. Daniel, I wouldn’t say that they don’t care but I would say that they haven’t put environment as a higher priority as DeepGreen has. That is evidenced by we not only have Greg Stone who is on our board of directors, who is our chief ocean scientist but we have Dr. Samantha Smith. Who is probably the leading voice around the environmental work in this industry. The other contractors don’t make those investment, they don’t necessarily see that. It’s an important area to them to invest in because they have this belief it’s just so clear and obvious. Whereas, when I set about mapping a roadmap for DeepGreen, I had a much bigger ambition, yeah. I wanted to created a company that was about global public good. Some of my thinking has been influenced by the work that you and Jordan and Forest had done in the past. That we have an opportunity here to create a corporation that’s never been created before and it’s going to evolve. I think NGOs have formed a very important role in our past but I think organizations need to have an NGO function to them now. They need to behave much more responsibly. I want DeepGreen to be a leading light as an organization there.
Gerard Barron:So we really placed a bigger influence and also we’re a private enterprise. The other contractors, to have a contract with the International Seabed Authority, you have to be sovereign or sponsored by a sovereign. So the reason why those other organizations perhaps don’t have as bigger drive as we do is they’re parts of much bigger corporations or governments. Whereas, we have to survive through private capital.
Gerard Barron:So we lay out a roadmap on a sort of organization that we want to be, the sort of role we want to play in society. Then we spend a lot of time looking for capital that’s sympathetic to that. The economics behind this project are off the charts. So we would … There are traditional places we could go to get capital but that is not the capital we necessarily want. We want people who are very aligned with creating a global public good corporation. Of course, the other thing is we want to be proud of all of our efforts in years to come. I want my children and grandchildren to look back and say, old pops did okay. We created a sustainable organization and to take … We all know about the closed-loop economy. But I hope our business won’t be collecting metals off the ocean floor in 70-80 years time. I hope society would’ve moved on to behavior.
Greg Stone:To further describe is called the rightful place, the companies, in particular, the companies like DeepGreen, in particular, are taking in society. It’s helpful to look back over the evolution of sustainability in businesses. I wouldn’t have said in my career, it started out you had a sustainability officer at a big company. I could name some that I worked with back in the 90s, Unilever being one. Where sustainability officers were mostly concerned with like making sure the lights were shut off at night in the buildings. That they were recycling the copy paper in the copy room.
Greg Stone:Now, what’s happened today is you have whole divisions devoted to the supply chain of these companies. With maybe dozens, maybe hundreds of staff are dedicated to this. As a result and the role of the “NGO” or the external advisor or the advocacy group has changed dramatically. It was in the early days there was a desperate need for that expertise to be lavished on the companies to help them to figure out which way to go, what to do. Now the companies have built that into their DNA more, at least the smart ones have. DeepGreen has done that from the very get-go. It’s really part of the architecture, the value system and the science is within the company. We actually don’t need an NGO, we’ve got that expertise. If we don’t have it, we’ve got friends that we call upon their home phone numbers at night.
Greg Stone:So the whole complexion has changed and has taken a while for people to catch up with this. We’ve actually seen it in our interaction with investors. Where we get millennials who get it in about 30 seconds, they’re in. But when we talk to somebody my age, they’ve been through bad experiences with companies in the past, they don’t trust it. It takes a long time to sort of bring them around to the fact that things have changed.
Daniel:Yeah, I think that many of the listeners here will be familiar with the idea that CSR, corporate social responsibility was kind of this. It almost kind of like the little part of the marketing budget of companies that made their money by ruining the world. Had to say that they were doing something good and so they do this thing called CSR. It is the attack on it, it has nothing to do with the core product that they’re delivering or the formation of it. So if I’m a company that is selling soda, which is just like diabetes and obesity water. Trying to sell it to kids to maximize lifetime revenue of customers because they start earlier. There is no such thing as being a mission center company in a real way because I’m selling diabetes at scale. So then I do some social good like as attack on and then market that. So that I have people don’t protest my company too much.
Daniel:So there’s a huge shift from we’re doing something to make money and then we’re trying to show that we’re a good company. Versus where the core thing you’re doing is the mission. Yeah, I don’t think that any company, whether core good or service that you’re offering isn’t actually what the corporate social responsibility is should exist. So I want to come back, Gerard, to something you’re saying because you hinted at it a couple of times. This happens to be my most intriguing area of inquiry in this whole conversation. So you said that you would like us not to be mining the oceans in 70 or 80 years. How would that work?
Gerard Barron:Well, we know that we live in a throw-away economy today. We also know that has to stop, we have to stop mining and manufacturing and consuming and dumping. We have to move to an economy that is about manufacturing and consuming and recycling. So we are totally committed to that outlook, that we have to start reusing the reusable materials. The good thing about metals is they are very reusable. If you take a typical electric vehicle battery today, you can recycle that and get pretty full recovery of the contained metals. It’s very expensive at the moment but that will change as scale comes into the equation.
Gerard Barron:So what I see is the future is that we have to and this is the big question for society. That today I think the World Bank put a report out that said, for a closed-loop economy we need 40 times the total supply of metals to be in the system. That’s not this year’s supply, this is the total supply. So that’s a lot of metal. So the question for society is where are we going to get it from? If you don’t believe 40, make it 20, make it 30, make it 50. But where are we going to get it from? Are we going to continue going to go and destroy land or rainforest or pristine environments? Do we go to the ocean floor where we have a ready-made set of materials waiting to be collected? As we move forward, we’re going to find consumers are driving this conversation, Daniel. As a consumer, I’m going to want to buy my products from companies that I feel confident, I know where the materials came from. I want to make sure as a minimum there’s no child labor, there’s no deforestation, there’s been no relocation of communities. I’ve had the least impact on water supplies, I’ve had the least environmental footprint.
Gerard Barron:All of these things are going to be important. So that’s part of my strategy, is to really build a brand around this new category of clean metals. But moving forward to the next phase, I’m going to want to buy my product of a company that’s using recycled materials. Now, today, there’s not enough metals in circulation for that to be feasible. We’ve seen companies like Apple who said, we’re going to go down this path. The little bit they miss out is it’s going to take us a shit load of time to get there. But we will get there particularly as we get more of these renewable energy and electric vehicles in the system. They will be recycled.
Gerard Barron:So I see that as we move through, as the old baby boomers slowly move off the planet. The new breed of very aware consumers who believe in climate change, who believe the science behind the climate change, they’ll be the people who drive this change of behavior. That means we’re going to need to extract less metals, we’re not going to need to collect metals from far away places. We’re going to need to use recycled metals. There’s going to be a new industry. So that’s in the foreseeable future. I’m assuming I’m going to live to 150 but that is in the foreseeable future and that’s what we want to espouse. I talk about it as a transitional resource. What are we transitioning from? We’re transitioning from a fossil fuel driven economy to a closed-loop economy.
Daniel:So you said several things there that I actually want to double-click on. So first, you said younger people who believe in the science of climate change. You and I have discussed this but something I think is interesting is this project would be interesting for people who don’t believe in science of climate change. They see it as valuable, simply from the point of view of being able to get off foreign oil and the lack of domestic stability of foreign oil. Simply not wanting wars associated with it or manipulated markets because of the flax of oil. Not wanting the toxicity from land-based mining or the environmental impact of land-base. There’s a lot of different reasons.
Daniel:So the interesting thing is this would be one of those issues. The kind of far political left and right could kind of all recognize all something of value in.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, that’s right, I agree. To that point, I was with a very smart investor yesterday. Who is very green but their family has a lot of resource assets, some of the coal. Makes for an interesting dinner party, dinner table conversations. They were saying to me if it could be an either or then obviously we’d always go ocean. But I’m just worried that we’re going to deliver more supply, which means people are going to consume more. It’s like we’ve got to reset some of those thoughts because it’s not generally how it’s going to work. It is some time and we had some of the most ridiculous comments I’ve heard ever reported in the press from [Corp] yesterday. Where some spokespeople representing the American government were saying don’t let climate change get in the way of our rights to economic prosperity. It’s like really? That is the consumption society, full stop. Honestly, it made me want to vomit when I read it.
Gerard Barron:It was like forget the future generations, we want economic prosperity so get out of our way. It’s like, my God.
Daniel:So this is the issue, is it? Almost every proposition that has ever been put forward for people to vote on was created to benefit something by somebody who cared about that something. But then it also damages something else because the world is complex and interconnected. Which is why you don’t ever get any proposition that everybody likes or everybody dislikes. The thing that it benefits would be very meaningful to some people. The thing that it harms, will be evil to some people. Which is one of the reasons that process of democracy based on theory of trade-offs propositions end up leading to polarization.
Daniel:So that’s another podcast that we can definitely talk about fundamental limits, democracy, and capitalism. But this is actually one of the interesting cases in capitalism, this is one of the companies that is actually doing something that I like as a company. Is economic prosperity or the environment. Yeah, if my kids can’t get jobs and they’re facing poverty, there’s a new kind of development that can happen that can get them jobs but it requires ruin a forest that I never go to, I might go for it, right?
Daniel:So those types of fear of trade-offs are a bummer. One of the things that’s interesting is you’ve got the possibility of doing something that can help boot the new energy economy get off coal and oil, help climate change, help ocean intensification. Help all those things and as a highly profitable company. So you really don’t have a theory of trade-offs, you have center just [inaudible] across a lot of different areas.
Greg Stone:That’s right.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, that’s right. Thank goodness because the reality is these projects are big and they’re expensive. So you need to have access to capital to make them into realities. So there are boxes that you have to tick. As an ambitious CEO, I want to create this global public good company. But I’m in no doubts where my capitals got to come from. It’s going to come from people that need a return on their capital. So, of course, even if you do your job right, you end up getting more capital that cares about some of the softer issues more and more, which gives you flexibility. But yeah, these projects have to make sense.
Greg Stone:The way you’ve described it, Daniel is perfect and people don’t believe it. It sounds too good to be true but it actually happens to be true. I think that’s one of our challenges, is getting that synergistic positive feedback system going. That it actually happens to be true.
Daniel:It really does sound too good to be true. It sounds like I’m helping you guys brainwash the shit out of something. Especially when you’re describing the polymetallic nodules in this dark area where there’s basically no interest in life. All we got to do is go pick them up. Is like come the fuck on, it can’t be like that. That’s where I want to be a little bit real. That it’s like it actually will suck for some starfish and sea cucumbers. It will put some sediment in the water that we don’t know exactly what the range of effect is.
Daniel:So I just want the listeners who are listening who are somewhat conscious to say like no, there is an effect. So they’re testing right now the sediment for bacteria for heavy metals, for all kinds of things. To see are those sediment plumes is going to be really problematic. Testing the sea, factoring the ocean currents. How far are they going to go, what other areas will be affected? Testing to look at the biodiversity to make sure that if there’s an area where the sea cucumbers and starfish are going to get displaced, those same species are in another area that’s being protected. In a way, the fact that there’s very little sunlight and very little kind of chloric movement means there’s not much life there, which is awesome. But it also means that it repairs slowly, just like the desert.
Daniel:So in a way, we’d rather destroy the desert than a rainforest because there’s so much less life. But the rainforest grows back faster than the desert. So there’s this kind of trade-off.
Gerard Barron:[inaudible 00:43:40], yeah.
Daniel:But there’s this thing where it’s like okay, of all the places that we could get these metals, given that’s going to happen, this does seem to be the best thing that I have seen that we currently know how to do.
Greg Stone:That’s right. It really has to be seen within the context of the overall planetary system and what our options are. It’s not a standalone. If it was a question of go to the deep-sea or pull these-
Daniel:Nodules on the surface of the land.
Greg Stone:Pull these things out of thin air somehow, I’d choose thin air because it would be less impact. But the fact that the trade-off models that we have are such that this is the best option. It’s interesting. We had this investor we talked to yesterday, very smart. I think she’s a chairwoman of a big NGO and very concerned about this topic. I didn’t have time to explain it all to her but I basically said during the end of it, I said, “Trust me.” I said, “Get your people to look into it. I’m sure you’ve got some people who can.” But the impact, given the options set that we have a society, we have a civilization have, this is the best option.
Daniel:So I have a question and this is a live question, I’m just bringing on you guys. But I’ve seen the environmental kind of due diligence reports that have been done so far. We’ve talked about what the next ones are that are in process. The capital that’s coming in is going to a number of things but more environmental research is one of them. But let’s say they were people who are interested in this and wanted to see that the environmental due diligence had all the support that it could have. They had concerns or wanted to help. If there was an institute oceanography that said we already have a grant, we’ll come help you guys for free. There was a philanthropic group that said we would like to fund some of the due diligence research getting done. If there are people that are concerned that have skills and would like to participate, can that happen?
Gerard Barron:Absolutely, yeah, you bet you. Even when I asked Greg to come and join our board, some of my other board members at the time, some of which who are not on the board anymore, they freaked out. It was like, what are you doing? That’s like letting a fox into the chicken coup, surely. But it was like no, we need to be so transparent. I said to our investors we’re doing this for all the right reasons. If there were reasons to halt our progress, then our progress would be halted. This is an organization that has to be transparent, it has to be … We also have to be balanced, of course, because there are some sectors of the community that I don’t know what the right word is to describe, crazy? There are choices to be made and we have to make those choices with information and intelligent data behind them. But I say to those organizations, come on in.
Gerard Barron:I actually make this request to shareholders, now that we’ve kind of got over that hump of early capital. When I meet with shareholders, they’re interviewing me, of course but I’m interviewing them as well. It’s like how can you help us and how much do you want to help us? We don’t want capital that just lands into our lap, we want capital that’s proactive, that is interested in the outcome here. So what I would say to both of those scenarios is bring it on.
Daniel:Great. So there’s a couple of topics I want to test on a little bit more. There’s this provenance demand topic and there’s this closed-loop topic. So this is the first conversation we had when we met. So you just spoke to the closed-loop thing and I wanted to just kind of reiterate it in another way. So the idea is we need a lot of more batteries, we need a lot more solar cells, we need more wind turbines. There’s a whole infrastructure to build. There are metals that are needed to do that that we don’t currently have. So this is the most environmentally friendly meaning least environmentally impactful way to boot those metals into the economy.
Daniel:But these solar cells are going to go obsolete with some new better solar technology. These batteries are going to go obsolete either when they run out or a new method comes up that is so much more energy dense that we want to turn things into it. So the key is that our next round of batteries and solar cells are going to come from these ocean nodules. But the next rounds after that come from these round, being properly recycled. So the closed-loop how do we turn old stuff into new stuff so that we stop needing virgin resource acquisition? Not just for these metals for this area but [red] large for the materials economy. Closed-loop materials economy is one of the necessary criteria for an enduring civilization. You can’t take un-renewable resource and turn into waste at an exponential scale on a finite planet forever.
Daniel:So the thing that I’m interested in here is of all the things to start cycling, obviously, metals are one of the best because they’re the most recyclable. Of all the different metals the base metals for the energy economy are actually the most interesting thing. The process of cycling anything, the recycling, the limiting factor is the amount of energy it takes. So to be able to recycle plastics, to be able to recycle glasses and all the other kind of things is an energy density topic.
Daniel:So what I think is kind of interesting about being able to get metals in an abundant and not too damaging way. That specifically allow us to do energy is that’s allowing us to start building the beginning of the materials economy being closed loop from this particular atoms being closed loop. But also the energy necessary for all the rest of them. So if you kind of think about everything we value and the materials economy is either the physical stuff, so atoms. It’s the energy that powers that, energy or it’s information, bits, pattern. The bits we don’t have to mind, they have a totally different physics.
Daniel:Now, the energy, we don’t have to have a closed-loop on because we keep getting more of it every day so we simply have to harvest it and that’s kind of the goal. The materials, we live on a finite planet, we don’t get more of. We have to go closed-loop on those. We’re basically putting the old atoms into new atoms form. The forms are basically digital. Those are the bits of what we’re 3D printing or whatever stuff into and it all runs on energy. So being able to specifically because the bits aren’t the rate limiting factor here. Being able to generate the energy infrastructure in the beginning of the closed-loop process.
Daniel:So Jordan and I had this topic, this conversation earlier, where I said, hey, I’ll lean in and help with this if you also are committed to having the success of this company drive recycling tech. Drive the Nano-tech and other technologies necessary that the moment that we don’t have to be getting this from metals because we can be getting them from the existing ones. Even being able to cost-effectively mine land fields that we’re doing that.
Daniel:So we’ve had some conversations with who leading companies are in those spaces, [inaudible 00:51:21]. So that’s the interesting thing, is that then DeepGreen is really the boot-loader of a process that obsoletes itself.
Greg Stone:You’ve only got to way the stuff down like that.
Daniel:Have a way of what?
Greg Stone:You have a way of laying this out and it’s very clear. I appreciate the way you frame things, your thinking, the bits, the energy.
Gerard Barron:Which is a really disarming thing when we talk to NGOs and I lay this out to them. So they go what, you’re not going to be in this business in 100 years time? Exactly. Otherwise, society won’t exist in the way we know it today. That they will come a time when this would be the only acceptable way of behaving because there would be such drastic evidence. As I mentioned, all those baby boomers would be off the edge. All of a sudden, this will just be the norm. We just happen to be at the early phase of it.
Daniel:So [inaudible 00:52:22].
Greg Stone:Some of these NGO meetings is like part of the meetings are like, “Hey, Greg, how are you? Nice to see you in your new job.” I know all these people. But then the other part of it is come on, you guys aren’t really coming in here trying to find out what we think [inaudible 00:52:34]? Yeah, we are. No one has ever done this they say. Business has never come in like this, you guys are kidding us, right? I’m serious, they’ve never seen it before.
Daniel:Yeah, and believe it sadly. So now, you were talking about how many more metals are needed to a closed-loop metals economy in this space. You were saying that it’s 20X or 40X something like that. So what is the actual supply available? What is the supply that you guys are looking at and have access to? Also, I wanted to just clarify something, I think it was said but to clarify. It could sound like there is this kind of land creature bias. Of that, we don’t want to do mining on land because we live on land but fuck the oceans. That’s not what’s been said at all. If this was the stuff that required mining in the ocean, it would be different. The gathering is very different than mining. If it was on a coral reef, it would be different or on a whale breeding ground.
Daniel:So it just happens to be that where these are located is also just an easy source. So in terms of those, just factoring nodules, just in this kind of low biological activity spaces, what’s available?
Gerard Barron:Well, the good news is a lot. So it’s estimated just in nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone there’s around 46 million tons of cobalt. There’s around 270 million tons of nickel. Now, last year the nickel market was 2.25 million tons and it’s forecast that would double in the next 15 years. Largely driven by the renewable energy, electric vehicle demand. Cobalt, last year was about 120000 tons. But that’s forecast to grow very rapidly. It could cap out at two million tons per annum. So you’re talking about 46 million tons, it’s enough to electrify the entire fleet twice over.
Gerard Barron:So I believe, that’s enough to get us into that closed-loop economy. So ending-
Daniel:So you think just this one zone off the coast of Mexico has the base metals needed for what it looks like the demand over the foreseeable futures?
Gerard Barron:Correct, absolutely.
Gerard Barron:Yeah. It’s beyond interesting, it’s what mother nature intended. It’s like I can just … These are millions of years old. I haven’t shown you one yet, Daniel. I know I have shown you on the past but for anyone who is watching this podcast on your website, this is how we treat every one of them. We really care for these nodules. Yeah. So there we have it, beautiful, naturally made. That’s an electric vehicle battery in my hand.
Daniel:So basically that sitting on the top of sediment, maybe going an inch into the sentiment because of weight.
Gerard Barron:That’s right.
Daniel:Greg, can you explain how those formed?
Greg Stone:Yeah. It’s very interesting. The best way to think about it is like a pearl. There’s usually something in the middle of them. Sometimes a shark tooth or a grain of something rather. Basically, if you look at the periodic table, everything on the periodic table is in solution in the ocean. Okay, that’s the great thing about the ocean, it’s kind of the amniotic fluid of all things that have ever been. These metals occur in higher concentrations in this Clarion-Clipperton Zone and they accrete a layer on, atom by atom onto this origin piece. As I said, interestingly, it’s often a shark tooth.
Greg Stone:They grow out like a pearl is the best way to describe it. There is, of course, like everything these days. There’s a bacterial world that contributes to this activity. We’re finding of most biology, that sort of a way recent decades, is the bacterial environment created by bacteria. Are playing a much larger role on some of these geochemical things than we thought in the past. So it’s not purely a physical process, there’s biology going on there too. We’re not entirely sure exactly how it works but it’s a very slow process.
Daniel:So the gold nuggets that led to the gold rush in the west, the Pacific West, is a similar phenomenon. It’s some kind of high concentration of metals that geologic phenomena created an accretion on. But here, you don’t have to pan for them because they are just literally sitting on the floor.
Greg Stone:Yeah, that’s right.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, you don’t have to dig, you don’t have to drill, you don’t have to blast. They’re just sat there.
Daniel:So you go down with a submersible?
Gerard Barron:Yeah. So we will operate with remote operated vehicles that will collect these. Obviously, we design those vehicles. We’re in the middle of our environmental studies right now. So we don’t have all of the answers. We will not submit our environmental impact statement for another couple of years yet. So we’re gathering all of that data, we’re very encouraged by what we see. Yeah, our collecting system will be built in a very sympathetic way to the environment in which we’re operating in.
Gerard Barron:We use a closed riser system to bring the materials up to the ocean. So we’re not going through the water columns with open material, it’s all enclosed. We return any excess water back to where we got it from. So not releasing it into different water columns either. So that’s where between Greg and Samantha, we have good chaperones here to look that ocean environment.
Daniel:So you mentioned the topic of creating demand for these cleaner source metals. So if I’m a battery company and I can get them from you or I can get them from somewhere that is doing surface mining. Creating lots of toxic tailings and damaging equatorial rainforests. I don’t really care so long as which one is cheaper. I’ve got my own other goals. So unless you do something that makes them care. So talk a little bit about how you want to try and influence perception here? How will people even know if the metal came from a clean source versus not? Talk about this.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, sure. So this strategy came about when I sat and thought, what are our big risks here? One of the risks is we don’t get access to the capital or that the big mining guys come and clobber us. They try and buy into our company and slow down our progress because they want to sweat their other assets or whatever it is. So when I sat and thought about the games that could really derail our plan, [inaudible 01:00:24]. I’ve great faith in mankind and I believe that given a choice, there’s a generation coming through that will always go with the better choice for society and for the environment.
Gerard Barron:I’m really down on the baby boomers but it’s not so much baby boomers but it’s certainly the generations coming through now. So what I saw the opportunity was to create a category around these clean metals and that did a couple of things. So imagine if as a consumer that you could buy your mobile phone or your electric vehicle or your home battery storage unit and you can buy with a stamp on it. That had a clean metal stamp. It might be a DG stamp, a DeepGreen. If you knew that product was built with materials that had the least environmental impact, that definitely had no child labor involved. That no deaths in mining because that’s [inaudible] and all these things. I think if you give consumers the choice of buying a product with that badging versus the mystery of who knows where it came from, that they’ll always [inaudible] on the side of wanting to know.
Gerard Barron:I think that the media is starting to really get on to that as well. We see all the major publications reporting on child labor. Wall Street Journal did a big expose on adult mortality in mining because everyone focuses on the kids. But adult lives are very cheap when it comes to mines in Africa. It’s a horrible, horrible story. So I also saw this is a great way of getting the brands, the consumer-facing brands to support us as an early stage producer of these metals. I want to totally reinvent the supply chain, so do the car companies. That is in my hand, an electric vehicle battery. So the electric vehicle manufacturers are going, so how do we turn that into battery grade materials? We could cut out a whole heap of people in the process.
Gerard Barron:In fact, to that point, 40% of the cost of a car at the moment is the battery and the surrounding unit. So that’s a pretty big variable for them. So they need to get some sort of control over it. So it’s kind of just evolved into a very logical strategy now of creating some thinking around a clean metal branding strategy. As a way of us engaging directly with those consumer-facing brands. Asking for them to pre-commit to buy some of our products and also to work with us. As we encourage them to brand clean metals, ocean metals.
Daniel:So we all know that with an organic standard or a non-GMO standard or whatever, there is some process to be able to verify that it is organic. We also know that as soon as there is increased money willing to be paid for the organic thing, then there is every attempt possible to gain the certification. So how are you thinking about so being able to generate demand for healthier source metals, healthier for the planet, and people. People are recognizing the topic. That seems straight forward. Then how will people actually know where metal came from and how it was processed?
Gerard Barron:Sure. So we’ll use some form of distributed ledger technology to be able to validate when this metal was collected when it was processed, who it was sold to and which car it ended up in. I really I’m intrigued with the idea of letting people, consumers buy into that process quite early. It’s it might be that a consumer wants to buy their electric vehicle part of us a year out or two years out. Say, I want to know, I want to pre-commit because I want to make sure that my car or my home battery pack has my metals in it.
Gerard Barron:That’s the opportunity available to us now and that’s an opportunity A, it’s great form on financing. The B is way of getting more participation. Participation is the thing that I’m really driven by because I know that when people criticize the idea of ocean metals, it’s for one of two reasons. The first reason is they’ve got a vested interest in a different outcome and will never change that. The most common thing is that they have less information than they need to, to make an informed decision. So the more we talk about this, the more we put it on the global stage, the more widely accepted this is going to be as the only option we should be going down. The data is just so compelling.
Daniel:So if anybody didn’t catch it, he said distributed ledger. So blockchain is the most popular example of how to do a distributed ledger. Maybe blockchain might be some other chain technology. But this happens to be one of the actual real value adding thing, that kind of computational technology can do. Which is create a supply chain that has accounting that is [inaudible 01:06:03].
Daniel:So an un-corruptible accounting for a supply chain is valuable if you want to be able to prove where something came from. If you’re going to increase demand of things that come in a particular way and transits through particular steps. So tokenization is not such an interesting application. Supply chain management happens, that should be an interesting application.
Daniel:Obviously, that doesn’t have to happen, you guys can just supply the metals and that’s cool. But to the degree that there are companies and you can supply the metals and create a pressure all of them to start up in the business practices. This is the whole idea, how can a company not just do the best job they can but lead an entire industry? It’s kind of like how much more organic food Walmart carries as a result of Wholefoods existing and changing the supply and demand landscape is really profound? Wholefoods has created so much change in agriculture beyond the food that they sell because of the demand dynamics.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, totally. I think raising the bar is one of the obvious advantages that we all have across the demand and supply chain. Let’s start reporting on it. I read yesterday one of the car makers said they had 700 people in the field now visiting suppliers. Wanting to see visibility in the supply chain and metal was the key focus. So just because of the impact on the brand, when news broke that they were buying metals from less scrupulous suppliers.
Daniel:So other than capital raising, which from various line investors, what else do you guys need? What would be helpful in terms of the work that is ahead? So if anyone is listening to this that happens to be in these industries or have these capacities, what could’ve been a submission?
Gerard Barron:Yeah, well great question. So money is a given but we pretty all got, that’s something that occupies a lot of my time. I find it a great way to meet great people. So it’s something that I actually quite enjoy is talking to people about our future capital needs. But actually what I wanted more than that is just I want community around us. I’m so thrilled to be talking to your audience, Daniel because the deep thinking community is so what I want to see involved in this project. This is a grounds to our movement. We’re starting and the great thing is the brighter you are the more you’ll love this project. I imagine that your listeners is going to really enjoy this story because it makes so much sense. So I want is participation. You don’t have to be a shareholder to be supporting us. Reach out and encourage and come and hear our story and talk about it at dinner parties. Think about where the connection points can be. It’s a massive challenge in front of us. We’re taking on the metals industry.
Gerard Barron:I want DeepGreen to be the most respected metals company in the world. It’s a gong that’s up for grabs because no one has it at the moment. But we’re going to displace some big old companies, some big old wildebeest. So that means we really want lots of friends out there, particularly intelligent ones. So I invite your listeners to reach out to me and to talk about how you would like to be involved. By all means, put forward your thoughts.
Gerard Barron:We have a boat that is parked on permanent hire down in San Diego, which is where we head out to our site from. So we regularly meet down there. Yeah, so like send out an invite, reach out and if you want to participate in any manner or form, it’s available.
Daniel:People can learn some more info in the website, right?
Gerard Barron:No, it’s deep.green so no dot com.
Daniel:This is great, I think this is very interesting. Probably for a lot of people just the topic of materials acquisition. Where do they come from is a topic they haven’t thought about a lot. Starting to think about it, very interesting.
Daniel:Then starting to think about this kind of synergistic [satisfier] possibilities. Can we decrease toxic tailings while avoiding conflict zone metals, while avoiding equatorial rainforest damage, while helping switch off coal and oil? It’s like this is a topic we talk about a lot of. In the whole complex systems, you’ve got to look at the whole systems, the synergistic [satisfier 01:11:08]. I think for those interested in the topic of social entrepreneurship, this is one of the more interesting cases that I am more aware of things I think have possibly huge impact.
Daniel:So grateful for both of you to come and for the work that you’re doing. Any final thoughts that either of you want to share?
Gerard Barron:Other than thank you from my side and-
Greg Stone:Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed, Daniel, thank you very much. I’ll send you a link to a blog I just did. It’s kind of off bid for The Economist. they published online a couple of weeks ago, [inaudible 01:11:43]. But it might help. I don’t know how you promote your podcast but you might want to put this link in there because it’s additional reading.
Daniel:Great, we’ll put it in the show notes.
Greg Stone:Okay, I’ll send it to you, yeah.
Greg Stone:All right.
Daniel:Thank you both.
Gerard Barron:Thank you, Daniel.
Greg Stone:Thank you so much, yeah.
Daniel:Looking forward to seeing how it progresses.
Greg Stone:All right.
Gerard Barron:Yeah, absolutely.
Gerard Barron:Thanks, buddy.
Greg Stone:All right, take care.