Nautilus Minerals is leading exploration and development of seafloor copper, gold, silver and zinc resources. Adapting proven offshore technologies, Nautilus Minerals is currently developing the high grade Solwara 1 copper-gold project, in Papua New Guinea. Development of Solwara 1 will launch a new frontier in the resource sector and unlock the vast potential untapped resources.
Seafloor Massive Sulphide (SMS) deposits form on the ocean floor and contain appreciable concentrations of copper, zinc, gold, silver and other traces of metals. They are the modern day equivalents of ancient ‘land-based’ Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits such as Kidd Creek in Canada. VMS deposits are a major source of the world’s copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver.
SMS deposits develop on the seafloor where new crust is forming. Seawater flows down through the rock sequences below the seafloor as a result of thermal convection caused by hot magma at depth. These hydrothermal fluids become heated to temperatures of up to 400oC and then via convection flow out of openings in the seafloor. During this process, the hot, highly acidic hydrothermal fluid dissolves metals from the surrounding rock; and may interact with other hot fluids rising from magma deep underground. When the hot, highly acidic fluid reaches the cold, alkaline seawater (typically 2- 4oC at 1500 metres water depth), the metals precipitate out of the solution, resulting in the build-up of metal-bearing sulphide minerals on the seafloor.
SMS deposits are found along mid-ocean spreading ridges (such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and East Pacific Rise), back-arc basins (such as the Manus Basin in PNG) and submarine arc volcanic chains (such as Kermadec Arc in New Zealand). The focus for Nautilus Minerals is to capture SMS opportunities in the SW Pacific where considerable seafloor data is already available.
Papua New Guinea is fortunate to enjoy one of the better geological settings in the world for the formation of seafloor massive sulphides. To date, there has been around 300 SMS sites identified around the world. Solwara 1 has been studied in more detail than any other site, on that basis it was a good starting point for exploration and the granting of the first offshore Mining Licence. Benign sea conditions the Bismarck Sea is a favoured location.
Extensive work has been completed to date and with minimal potential impacts to reefs, fish and landholders. This is an opportunity for PNG.
The technology being used for Solwara 1 is based on existing technology.
We have used the best parts from the offshore oil and gas, dredging, subsea mining and onshore mining industries.
The innovative part is that we have put all of these technologies together to make a system that can recover minerals from the deep sea.
Training, up skilling, technology transfer, increased maritime safety, employment, royalties and taxes are some of the advantages the Project will offer the people of PNG.
Nautilus Minerals has voluntarily committed to pay 2 kina per ton of mineralised materials mined into a community development fund. This is in addition to the statutory taxes and royalties payable under the Mining Act 1992. The Community Development Fund will be managed by Nautilus Minerals, but run by an independent group based in PNG, with a focus on health and education services, as agreed with the relevant provincial governments.
Nautilus Minerals has and continues to work closely with communities nearest to the Solwara 1 site. We have conducted community awareness in over 49 locations throughout PNG. During these meetings Nautilus Minerals employees take notes and report back to senior management.
An extensive multi-stakeholder approach has been used in preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Solwara 1 project.
Workshops were held involving local and international NGOs, PNG government, and local and international scientists to determine the studies that were required to properly evaluate the environment, to identify which groups should conduct these studies, and to estimate project impacts.
Environmental aspects of the Solwara 1 Project are one of its greatest advantages.
The extraction site is 30 km from the nearest coast and in 1,600 m water depth, well away from coral reefs and commercial fish stocks.
To ensure fish and other animals remain safe, Nautilus Minerals has made a number of commitments:
These demonstrate Nautilus above and beyond approach to environmental management
There will be no waste or tailings from the Solwara 1 Project.
Independent vulcanology experts; Rabaul Volcanic Observatory have confirmed that Nautilus’ activities will have no impact on volcanic activity in PNG.