After the loss of a ship, deep sea mining plans falter for PNG founder

In 2011, Nautilus Minerals was granted a license to mine precious minerals from the seabed off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the first project in the world to gain deep-sea mining rights. Nautilus said the project would be less destructive than land-based mining, but met with protests due to the potential impact on the complex deep-sea ecosystems as well as coastal communities. A year ago, Nautilus failed to make a payment on a specialized ship being built for the project.

An ambitious plan to mine precious minerals from the ocean floor off the coast of Papua New Guinea looks to have run aground due to the developer’s financial problems.

In 2011, the government of Papua New Guinea granted Canada-based Nautilus Minerals a 20-year mining license covering roughly 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) of the Bismarck Sea, off the country’s eastern coast. The Solwara 1 project was the first in the world to be granted rights for deep-sea mining, whereby enormous machines would dig into the ocean floor, harvesting zinc, copper and gold, and other commodities essential to building electrical equipment.

The Papua New Guinea government took on a 15 percent equity stake in the venture with Nautilus, but repeatedly delayed payments as its politicians and citizens protested against the environmental impact of the project, as well as the substantial cost to taxpayers.

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