World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

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.

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