Nautilus Minerals' (TSX:NUS)(AIM:NUS) Tongan subsidiary, Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. ("TOML"), has become one of the first private sector organizations to be granted exploration licences in the highly prospective Clarion Clipperton Zone ("CCZ") of the Eastern Pacific.
Sponsored by the Tongan Government, TOML has been granted approximately 75,000 km2 of prime exploration territory in the CCZ, which lies in international waters between Hawaii and Mexico.
As a result of exploration conducted in the 1980s, the CCZ is known to host significant deposits of polymetallic nodules, which are golf ball sized nuggets, rich in copper, nickel, manganese and cobalt, lying on the seafloor in water depths starting at 4500 metres.
The International Seabed Authority, which is the organization responsible for administering activity on the seafloor in international territory, made the historic decision to grant the TOML licence at its annual meeting in Jamaica this week. The licence is for an initial period of 15 years.
Nautilus CEO Steve Rogers said the award of the exploration permit presented exciting opportunities for the long term growth and expansion of the company.
"At Nautilus, with our first project at Solwara 1 in the Bismarck Sea, we are adapting technologies to access seafloor mineral resources in water depths of 1600 metres. Ultimately, we intend to seek to establish the capacity to expand operations to undertake larger scale projects envisaged in the deeper waters of the CCZ.
"Nautilus is pleased to be at the forefront of development, working with industry and the scientific community to establish methodologies and processes to develop these significant resources in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible," he said.
The ISA previously has awarded eight exploration permits to government entities for polymetallic nodule exploration, but has not previously granted licences to private sector organizations. TOML's application for exploration permits represented "a new milestone in the life of the (International Seabed) Authority," according to ISA Secretary General Nii Allotey Odunton.
Map of TOML's tenements: www.nautilusminerals.com/i/pdf/TOMLJuly2011.pdf
About Nautilus Minerals Inc.
Nautilus is the first company to commercially explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits and is currently developing its first project at Solwara 1, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean. Nautilus is listed on the TSX and AIM stock exchanges, and has among its largest shareholders two of the world's leading international resource companies Anglo American (11.1%) and Teck Resources (6.8%), as well as Metalloinvest, one of the largest and fastest growing mining and metallurgical holding companies in Russia, which beneficially owns 21.0% of the Company's issued shares through Gazmetall Holding (Cyprus) Limited.
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