FROM THE SEABED?
HOW DO YOU COLLECT TREASURE
At the bottom of the sea, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, lies some of the world’s greatest treasure – and the high-tech contraption pictured here is helping to hunt it down. Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals is planning to use three of these giant machines to extract a million tons of minerals and precious metals from the sea bed – 1,600 metres down. They’ll do so with the help of special seafloor production tools (SPTS) designed and built in Newcastle, UK. First, two remote-controlled auxiliary cutter and bulk cutter robots will scrape the best material from the ocean floor and pile it up for collection. Then the 250-ton collecting machine (left) rumbles into action. Using an inbuilt pump, the megatool will suck up the mineralised silt and push it through a pipe into the bowels of a 230-metre-long production support vessel on the surface. Before it enters the ship’s storage holds, the seawater is drawn out of the slurry and returned to the deep sea floor, preventing the shallows from becoming murky. “There’s enough copper here to meet world demand for the next 30 years,” explains Mike Johnston from Nautilus Minerals. The mission is set to begin in 2018.