Nautilus dispute with Papua New Guinea authorities threatening underwater mining future

Canada-based Nautilus Minerals Inc. (TSX:NUS)(OTCQX:NUSMF)(AIM:NUS) said Monday that despite several meetings with Papua New Guinea's government representatives in the last two weeks, the company is still battling authorities in regards to its obligation to complete the agreement reached in March last year for its Nautilus Solwara 1 copper project.

The company, the first to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits, initiated the legal battle on June 1, when it warned that its Solwara 1 copper project could be delayed or cancelled because of the dispute.

The country optioned to acquire 30% of the Solwara 1 project, located in its territorial waters in the Bismarck Sea, last year and, as part of the agreement, Papua New Guinea have to pay its share of development costs for the mine.

Not long ago, the future looked promising for Nautilus. In late April,  the company announced  it had signed China's Tongling Non-ferrous Metals Group as the first customer of its pioneering Papua New Guinean sea-floor mine.

The project, in the minerals-rich Manus basin of PNG's Bismarck Sea, is claimed by Nautilus as the world's first commercial sea-floor mine, and is slated to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Nautilus shares fell over 11% in the Toronto Stock Exchange after the announcement, closing at 1.47.