Nau­tilus tar­gets Sol­wara 1 pro­duc­tion in 2017/ 18

Af­ter over­com­ing sev­eral de­lays, devel­op­ment of Nau­tilus Min­er­als’ deep sea cop­per-gold min­ing project, Sol­wara 1, is tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant steps for­ward. We talked with Nau­tilus Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Michael John­ston about Pa­pua New Guinea’s world-first p

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Mining -

Deep sea miner Nau­tilus Min­er­als Inc be­lieves it fi­nally has a clear devel­op­ment path lead­ing to pro­duc­tion at the Sol­wara 1 cop­per–gold project in Pa­pua New Guinea, po­ten­tially the world’s first deep seafloor min­ing op­er­a­tion.

The pi­o­neer­ing project, lo­cated in the min­eral-rich Manus basin in the Bis­marck Sea, was orig­i­nally ex­pected to begin pro­duc­tion in late 2013, but devel­op­ment was de­layed by a num­ber of set­backs, in­clud­ing a com­mer­cial dis­pute with the PNG Gov­ern­ment.

Nau­tilus’ progress at Sol­wara 1 has, how­ever, taken a pos­i­tive turn af­ter the com­pany re­solved the dis­pute with the state, and signed a con­tract with Dubai-based Marine As­sets Cor­po­ra­tion (MAC) in Novem­ber 2014 to pro­vide the ves­sel and ship­yard for the op­er­a­tion by the end of 2017.

In Novem­ber, Nau­tilus also com­pleted ne­go­ti­a­tions with the PNG Gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate a 15% stake in the project (worth US$120 mil­lion) to state nom­i­nee, Eda Kopa, a sub­sidiary of Petro­min PNG Hold­ings. Nau­tilus Min­er­als’ Mike John­ston.

Ad­vanced work­force

Nau­tilus hopes to take ad­van­tage of the ex­ist­ing skill base in the lo­cal min­ing in­dus­try as much as pos­si­ble to build its work­force, with an aim of in­clud­ing over 50% PNG na­tion­als.

Be­fore the ves­sel’s ar­rival the staff will re­quire ex­ten­sive train­ing of the min­ing sys­tems for op­er­a­tion of its elec­tri­cal and me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents, John­ston ex­plains.

‘The ma­chines are all driven by elec­tri­cal and hy­draulic mo­tors. There’s a lot of high-tech elec­tron­ics,’ he says.

‘There’s a lot of train­ing in­volved. We’re in the process of look­ing at build­ing a sim­u­la­tor to help ac­cel­er­ate that train­ing … The chal­lenge for us is to try and get as many na­tional staff into the mix as pos­si­ble.’

Gov­ern­ment har­mony

With ne­go­ti­a­tions now com­plete, John­ston says PNG Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’neill is show­ing his sup­port by reaf­firm­ing that the Gov­ern­ment wants to be strongly in­volved with the project.

‘The peo­ple of Pa­pua New Guinea don’t want to be by­standers, they want to be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in the devel­op­ment of their re­sources,’ says John­ston.

‘The peo­ple of Pa­pua New Guinea don’t want to be by­standers, they want to be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in the devel­op­ment of their re­sources.’

An artist’s im­pres­sion of Nau­tilus’ pro­duc­tion sup­port ves­sel.

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