Secretary-General Nii Odunton accompanied by his Deputy and Legal Counsel, Michael Lodge, had the opportunity to visit the Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) facility in Newcastle upon Tyne to get a look at Nautilus Minerals’ Polymetallic Sulphides Mining Technology.
The newly assembled Auxiliary Cutter (AC), is the third and final seafloor production tool (SPT) being built for Nautilus Minerals for polymetallic sulphides (also called seafloor massive sulphides) mining at its Solwara 1 deposit in the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea. Nautilus has a production target of 1.2 to 1.6 metric tonnes per year of sulphides material containing copper and gold. The excavation and collection of mineralised material has been split into three individual tasks, which will each be carried out by a different Seafloor Production Tool (SPT) which comprise an Auxiliary Cutter (AC), a Bulk Cutter (BC) and a Collecting Machine (CM).
The AC is designed as the pioneering tool which prepares the rugged sea bed for the more powerful BC. These two tools gather the excavated material; the third, the CM, will collect the cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps, pushing it through a flexible pipe to the subsea pump and on to the Production Support Vessel (PSV) via A Riser and Lifting System (RALS). The assembly of the Auxiliary Cutter makes it the first of the three Seafloor Production Tools to have been completed. It weighs approximately 250 tonnes.
Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian company with offices in Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tonga and Fiji was granted its first mining lease in January 2011 for polymetallic sulphides deposits at the prospect known as Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. It also holds approximately 500,000 square kilometres of exploration areas, or tenement applications, in PNG, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand and the Central Pacific. Previous exploration has already identified mineralised seafloor systems in the Bismarck Sea and in Tonga.
In 2012, The International Seabed Authority entered into a 15-year exploration contract with Nautilus Minerals subsidiary, Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML) for exploration for polymetallic nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone.