Canada’s Nautilus Minerals (TSX:NUS) is leading the race to open the first seabed mine as the company announced Thursday it will charter a 227-meter-long (745-foot) ship as a floating base for its operations near Papua New Guinea.
The Toronto-based company, which plans to mine copper and gold at its Solwara 1 project, said it will charter the vessel from Dubai-based Marine Assets Corp., which in turn plans to sign a contract with China’s Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Ltd. to design and construct the vessel.
Following the first payment by Marine Assets under the shipbuilding contract, $113 million will be released to the seabed miner from an escrow account. The amount was placed there by Papua New Guinea as part of the government’s purchase of a 15% stake in the project, located in the Bismarck Sea.
The ship will accommodate as many as 180 people and is expected to be delivered by the end of 2017, Nautilus said.
The Solwara 1 project, located in the minerals-rich Manus basin, was originally slated to begin production late last year, but long-dragged disagreements with the PNG government affected the original timeline.
Nautilus, the first yet not the only one exploring the ocean floor for polymetallic massive sulphide deposits, it still expects Solwara to become the first project commercial deep-sea mining in the world.