Nautilus Minerals', the world's leader in exploration and development of deep ocean seafloor resources, is today focused on the recovery of high-grade copper and gold in seafloor massive-sulphide mineralization. These mineralized belts, analogous to land based volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits, are located near plate boundaries in the back arc basins of the Western Pacific.
The first deposit to be developed by the company is located at a depth of 1,600 meters at Solwara 1, in the benign waters of the Bismarck Sea. This location lies within the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. During 2006 and 2007 the company completed detailed environmental and geological studies, culminating in a number of world firsts, including the world's first NI 43-101 compliant resource statement for a seafloor massive sulphide deposit.
By Q3 2008 Nautilus submitted its application for a mining licence and prepared its environmental impact statement for submission to the relevant authorities. Extensive government and stakeholder liaison and engagement has been undertaken, and is a core feature of Nautilus' desire to " do it right?? in all aspects of this new industry.
Nautilus has relied heavily on proven deepwater technologies from the oil and gas industry in the design of its mining system. Pipeline trenching units, workclass ROVs, deepwater production risers and drill cuttings removal systems will be adapted to initiate this new and exciting industry. Key contractors used by Nautilus on this innovative project have all been selected for their deepwater experience (gained in the oil and gas industry), creativity and determination to launch this new industry successfully.
Innovation is at the forefront of Nautilus' success to date and in 2007 it deployed the world's first ROV mounted drilling tool to measure the extent of the resource at Solwara 1. Secondly it prototyped a ROV mounted electro magnetic device to allow surficial mapping of resources.
This paper summarises the progress to date of this development which will provide a new source of minerals for the world and which will contribute to sustainable growth for the future.
In recent years, the boundaries of the existing offshore industries have continued to grow at a rapid pace through offshore technological advancements that have allowed access to new and / or rich resources that 10 - 15 years ago were considered either technically not feasible or commercially unviable. The offshore oil and gas industry provides no better example of this where all facets of the industry have advanced to enable exploration, construction and production in harsh and deepwater environments.