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
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.
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.’
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.’