Money hungry Nautilus weighs funding options as project challenges mount

Henry Lazenby | Mining Weekly | 22 December 2017

Marine mining pioneer Nautilus Minerals is in active discussions with a range of potential financiers and shareholders to secure the funding required to start mining the Solwara 1 project, offshore Papua New Guinea (PNG), the company said on Thursday.

The company has thus far been unsuccessful to secure tens of millions of dollars required to keep the project and associated production equipment and support vessel on track to start production in the Bismarck Sea during the first quarter of 2019.

Nautilus said in September that it needs to raise at least $41-million before year end, in order to meet the company’s contractual commitments regarding certain equipment forming part of the seafloor production system.

The Toronto-headquartered company cautioned that there can be no assurances that it will be successful in securing the necessary additional financing transactions within the required time, or at all. In the latter case, the company will evaluate all options to maximise shareholder value.

Meanwhile, Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding, the owner of the shipyard where Nautilus’ production support vessel (PSV) is being built, has notified the company that MAC Goliath, the buyer of the PSV, has failed to pay the third instalment of the contract price of about $18-million, plus accrued interest.

Should MAC fail to make the payment within 21 days from December 11, the shipyard has the right to sell the about 70% completed vessel. Nautilus has the option to remedy the default on behalf of MAC, or replace MAC as a party to the contract via a novation, but given the current funding shortfall, the company has its work cut out.

Nautilus advise that the vessel’s derrick substructure was recently delivered to the shipyard for installation on the PSV. Further, the builder is installing foundations for two of the three launch and recovery systems, the bulk cutter winch has been installed, work on the cargo handling system is progressing, and both the 100 T and 200 T cranes have also been installed.

The company advised in October that submerged trials of the first of the seafloor production tools (SPTs), the collecting machine (CM), have been completed at the trial facility in Motukea IslandPort Moresby, PNG.

The trial results indicated that the machine can perform to design specifications, and the team is now looking at operating enhancements. The auxiliary cutter has also been trialled and will be followed by the bulk cutter.

Nautilus formed a joint venture company with PNG’s nominee, Eda Kopa (Solwara), in December 2014 to mine high-grade polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits. Nautilus has an 85% shareholding and Eda Kopa 15%.

Nautilus in September 2016 announced a revised work programme, pending the company successfully raising the required capital by June this year. It entails a more staged approach, moving the Nautilus equipment integration phase of vessel construction out until after the vessel has been delivered by Fujian Mawei Shipyard and Marine Assets Corporate in the fourth quarter of 2018, resulting in a 12-month delay to the original schedule. 

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Filed under Mine construction, Papua New Guinea

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