PAPUA NEW GUINEA – In 2005 Nautilus Minerals of Vancouver set it sights on finding gold-copper massive sulphide deposits on the seafloor and mining them. That dream is a giant step closer since Nautilus signed an off take agreement with Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group, China’s largest importer of copper concentrate.
The agreement allows Tongling to purchase 1.1 million t/y of mineralized material from the Solwara 1 project for three years beginning in 2013. Nautilus will be recovering the material from the floor of the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Tongling will import the material to China where the company will first prepare a concentrate and then smelt the concentrate in its facilities.
Nautilus has adapted its production technology from that used by the offshore oil and gas industry, dredging and mining. Seafloor production tools loosely resembling road headers ply the seafloor 1,600 metres below the surface. Mined material is pumped to a surface vessel and dewatered. At Solwara 1 the indicated resource is 1.0 million tonnes at 7.2% Cu and 5.0 g/t Au. The inferred resources is 1.5 million tonnes grading 8.1% Cu and 6.4 g/t Au.
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