Nautilus Minerals — the Canadian company planning to extract copper, gold and silver from the bottom of the Bismarck Sea — has launched its production support vessel (PSV) at China’s Mawei shipyard.
The vessel, Nautilus New Era, will provide a stable platform for operations at the Solwara 1 deep sea mining site, located 30 km off the coast of Papua New Guinea's New Ireland province.
The PSV will also utilize dynamic positioning technologies to ensure it stays on location above the mine, which lies 1,600m beneath the surface of the ocean, regardless of adverse wind or wave conditions.
Solwara 1 is expected to be the world's first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mining venture. The extraction process involves excavating minerals from the seabed and drawing them up to the surface as a slurry. The ore will then be dewatered and transported to shore on shuttle barges, while the remaining seawater is pumped back to the ocean floor.
“We believe that mining the seafloor for much needed minerals will be a more cost effective and environmentally friendly source of obtaining high grade copper, gold and silver,” says Mike Johnston, Nautilus’ CEO. “Nautilus further differentiates itself from others by having a ‘first-mover advantage’ which is protected by intellectual property and 20 patents.”
Local environmental groups have raised concerns about the project, and its impact on the marine environment. In December last year, a coalition of NGOs launched legal proceedings in Papua New Guinea’s national court, claiming that the ecological impacts of seabed mining have not been properly assessed.
The PSV is currently 75 per cent complete and is scheduled for final delivery on March 31, 2019.