Justin Niessner | Mining News
JUST weeks after pledging to seek damages following a fizzled investment deal for its Solwara tenement with the Papua New Guinea government, Nautilus Minerals says the partnership remains committed to the project’s success.
Nautilus investor relations executive Michael Joyner walked Mines and Money Hong Kong delegates through the proposed undersea mine 40km off the coast of New Ireland, saying cooperation with the PNG government was ongoing.
“We have great relationships with the government of PNG at all levels,” Joyner said.
“We are currently negotiating with the government in terms of an amount they are going to put into the company.
“This has been dragging on for some time and it has slowed things down a bit, which I guess isn’t too uncommon in the industry as a whole today.
“But we’re working very hard with them over the last little while and we’re committed to getting this done.”
The comments follow the Toronto-listed explorer’s decision last month to terminate its agreement with the government after the state failed to pay $US118 million ($A129.9 million) for its share of Solwara funding.
This precipitated a selloff of Nautilus shares and fresh concerns about the viability of the world’s first ocean-bed copper-gold operation.
Joyner said yesterday, however, that recent issues with the government had allowed for a great deal of work to continue behind the scenes.
“A lot of people don’t realise just how far we’ve really come,” he said.
“I’d say we’re about 90% through the build of the equipment over all, and about 50% through the pump and the riser system.
Progress was also flagged to include a redesigned 70-tonne capacity production support vessel for which Joyner said the company was fielding several proposals.
A call for tenders is expected to be put out shortly, with a further update from the company in the third quarter.
Nautilus plans to extract high-grade seafloor massive sulphide systems on a commercial scale, using what is effectively a mobile mine based on oil and gas industry technology.
The project is hoped to open the door for future undersea prospects already being developed by the company outside PNG, including the polymetallic nodule exploration work being carried out in the Clarion Clipperton zone of the Pacific Ocean.
“In terms of the pipeline of projects moving forward, we’ve got about 500,000sq.km, that’s about the size of Texas or Chile, which makes us one of the largest landowners in the world,” Joyner said.
“At this point we’re probably given very little value for those projects or for the ground that we have – but as we’re able to see hat we can get the material off the seafloor successfully, I think we’ll see this having the potential to go up exponentially.”