Shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk has dropped its shares in deep-sea mining company The Metals Company (TMC). The company now holds less than 2.3% in TMC, down from 9% in 2021, and plans to completely sell its stake.

Maersk worked with TMC to provide shipping services five years ago, receiving payment in the form of shares at the time.

In 2022, a TMC representative said that Maersk didn’t have a vessel suitable for TMC’s mining operations. As a result, the company instead signed a contract with engineering firm Allseas Group.

Chief executive of TMC, Gerard Barron, told reporters: “We remain good friends [with Maersk] and grateful for their important contribution in getting this industry moving in the right direction”.

One of the most active companies in the deep-sea mining industry, TMC has consistently advocated for greater deep-sea mining trials and legalisation. The company was the first deep-sea mining company to complete pilot testing and in 2021 the company, along with the Republic of Nauru, set in motion talks for deep sea mining to be legalised by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Deep-sea mining controversy

The legal framework around deep-sea mining remains the subject of ongoing discussion, but will soon approach its final stages. The ISA will finalise and adopt regulations on the practice by the end of July 2023, having failed to come to an agreement during meetings in March.

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Canada-based TMC claims that it plans to begin mining polymetallic modules, found on the sea floor, from as early as 2024. The company is sponsored by the Pacific Island country of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga and the Republic of Kiribati, all of who wish to exploit the resources found in polymetallic nodules.

A growing number of countries have called for a “precautionary pause”, moratorium or ban on deep-sea mining. These include Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Germany, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Samoa and Spain.

Biologists have warned that mining the sea floor could have irreparable impacts for marine wildlife and ecosystems.

The metals found in polymetallic nodules including nickel, copper, manganese, cobalt and molybdenum. These are required for technological advancements to aid the energy transition, such as producing batteries for renewable energy systems and electric vehicles. The company claims that it is planning to conduct “responsible exploitation activities” on the sea floor.

Listed through a special purpose acquisition company on the Nasdaq exchange TMC’s stock has lost more than 90% of its value since going public in 2021, according to The Wall Street Journal. In December 2022, it received a delisting notice from Nasdaq after it had traded below $1 for more than 30 days. The notice was removed in February after the stock traded above $1 for 10 days, before a new one was issued in April.

The Metals Company has not yet responded to Mining Technology’s request for comment.