DEEP SEA explorer Nautilus Minerals intends buying a ship that will separate ore from seawater for its world-first ocean bed copper-gold mine.The Toronto-based company plans to place an order for the vessel in the first quarter of next year and has obtained quotes of $180-260 million.
Nautilus will use the ship at its Solwara-1 project, where it will remove water from ore pumped up from the ocean floor before transferring the mineral to a transport ship.
The project will target an initial mining rate of 1.2-1.3 million tonnes per annum of dry ore to produce about 80,000t per annum of copper and 150,000 ounces per annum of gold.
It follows the company’s recent arbitration case victory against the state of Papua New Guinea, which is a 30% stakeholder of the project but fell behind in making payments, according to the explorer.
The PNG government has been ordered to comply with its obligations under the agreement and complete the purchase of the 30% interest in the project, situated in the Bismarck Sea, New Ireland Province.
During a call with investors, chief financial officer Shontel Norgate said the vessel would take up to three years to build, depending on the shipyard.
“We’ll firm that up more over the next couple of months,” Norgate Bloomberg reported.
Tracked robots will cut ore from the sea floor and pump it up to the surface ship.
Nautilus is open to funding the vessel with partners or going it alone, Norgate told investors.
The company will cover 20-30% of the cost through equity and the rest will be debt-financed, she says.
CEO Michael Johnston added: “We want to get the best mix of cost, schedule and risk mitigation.”