TORONTO ( – TSX-listed marine mining project developer Nautilus Mining has secured a further bridge loan of up to $34-illion from Deep Sea Mining Finance, which is intended to tide the company over until it is able to start undersea mining at its flagship Solwara 1 project, offshore Papua New Guinea (PNG).

To date the company has received bridge loans from the Lender totalling $6.65-million.

Nautilus advised on Monday that in conjunction with the most recent advance of $1.9-million, the company has issued to the lender a further 8.16-million warrants of the company, bringing the total to 28.57-million share purchase warrants. Each Warrant entitles the lender to buy one common share of the company at a price of C$0.17 for a period of five years from the date of issuance.

The bridge loans will assist the company's immediate working capital requirements and facilitate payments required to continue the development of the unique seafloor production system. The loans bear interest at 8% a year, payable bi-annually in arrears with a one-year maturity date.

Deep Sea Mining Finance is a private company owned 50% by USM Finance, which is a subsidiary of USM Holdings - an affiliate of Metalloinvest Holding (Cyprus); and Mawarid Offshore Mining, a subsidiary of MB Holding Company, which constitute two insiders of the company.

Solwara is fully permitted, however, Nautilus still needs to raise $243-million to meet the expected upfront capital requirement.






IMO says its marine science advisory group, GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection), is welcoming a new sponsor. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the agency responsible for regulating mining and related activities in the international seabed, beyond national jurisdiction, an area that includes most of the world's oceans, is becoming the tenth sponsoring organization of GESAMP.

The new sponsor is joining the other nine organizations whose task is to advise the United Nations on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. The ISA's expertise is already being put to good use, with the Authority taking part in a working group dealing with the impacts of wastes and other matter in the marine environment from mining operations, including marine mineral mining.

The newly added sponsor is good news for GESAMP, which will celebrate 50 years of service as an advisory mechanism to the UN next year.






VANCOUVER ( – Toronto-based Nautilus Minerals has published a new preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Solwara 1 seafloor copper/gold project, located in the Bismarck Seaoffshore Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The Toronto-based prospective marine miner reported an undiscounted after-tax net cash flow of $179-million and a discounted (15%) net cash flow of $56-million a year. The internal rate of return for the base case is 28%, but it rises to 40% using average forward curve metal prices for copper and gold, the company advised earlier this week.

Prepared by AMC Consultants, the PEA models first production starting in the third quarter of 2019, and also shows that the project has a high fixed cost component at about 52%, which is mainly tied to the production support vessel. Nautilus advised that the project is highly leveraged to metal grade, metal prices, equipment utilisation and production rates.

Following a 15-month ramp-up period to the base-case steady state of 3 200 t/d, Nautilus expects to produce payable metalof about 20 000 t of copper and 29 000 oz of gold per quarter, at C1 costs of $1.36/lb copper for the entire deposit, or $0.80/lb copper at the projected steady state.

"Expected 'steady-state' C1 operating costs of $0.80/lb copper sit comfortably in the lower half of the first quartile of the production curve, and highlight the potentially seriously disruptive nature of seafloor mining to the world's miningindustry. These are very competitive capital and operating costs, and have additional room to move," CEO Mike Johnston noted.

However, Nautilus pointed out that the maximum capacity of the production system is designed at about 6 000 t/d. AMC believes that it is realistically possible to achieve a steady-state production rate of 4 500 t/d, which would lower the C1 costs to around $0.63/lb copper, net of by-products, which falls well within the lower half of the first quartile of the world copper production curve.

The PEA was based on updated mineral resource containing 1.03-million tonnes grading 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc in the indicated category, using a 2.6% copper cutoff. The Solwara 1 and 1 North projects also hold 1.54-million tonnes grading 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc in the inferred category.

Nautilus previously formed a joint venture (JV) company with PNG's nominee, Eda Kopa (Solwara), in December 2014 to mine high-grade polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits. Nautilus formed the JV after receiving $113-million that had been placed into escrow in May 2014, after completing the sale of 15% of its Solwara 1 project to Eda Kopa.

Nautilus has an 85% shareholding and Eda Kopa 15%.

Solwara is fully permitted, however, Nautilus still needs to raise $243-million to meet the expected upfront capital requirement.

Nautilus will make use of a suite of seafloor production toolsthat has recently completed submerged trials in PNG. Construction of Nautilus' production support vessel had also recently passed the 75% completion mark.

Nautilus is pioneering the undersea mining method, and expects to leverage the seafloor production system's very small environmental footprint, the lack of tailings, and industry leading operating and capital costs to its advantage and lead the world in creating a new industry.






JAMAICA, Kingston (1 March 2018) - -  On Monday 26 February 2018, the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority presented its Draft Strategic Plan for the period 2019-2023 on the organisation’s website, in English and French, the two working languages of the Authority. 

The Plan is the Authority’s highest-level document that will guide its direction and aims for a five-year timespan, and follows the request made by its member States at the last session of the Assembly, in August 2017 (ISBA/23/A/13). The landmark document constitutes a key instrument for the transparent and accountable governance and leadership of the Organisation.

The Draft reviews the context and challenges faced by the Organisation and sets out the Strategic Directions for the period 2019-2023 and, significantly, the expected results and priority outputs.

The Authority is fully committed to an extensive and comprehensive consultation process to ensure the final Plan will embody the views, priorities and ownership of all its members. As part of this consultation effort, a briefing session will be held on 7 March 2018 at the Council’s 24th session. All member States and Observers will be in attendance. Following this session, the Authority will engage broadly with stakeholders, seeking further comments, views and contributions. Meanwhile, the Secretary-General will hold additional meetings with representatives of Member States in Kingston, as well as permanent missions of the members of the Authority, in New York.






Toronto Ontario, February 27, 2018 - Nautilus Minerals Inc. (TSX:NUS, OTC:NUSMF Nasdaq Intl Designation) (the "Company" or "Nautilus") is pleased to announce the results of a Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") prepared by AMC Consultants Pty Ltd (“AMC”), contained in an independent National Instrument 43-101 ("NI 43-101") technical report, for the development of the Solwara 1 Project in the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea (“PNG”).

The PEA details the proposed production system and methodology, and provides estimates of operating costs, CAPEX to completion, metal production, and cash flows.

Highlights include:

  • Solwara 1 is fully permitted
  • PNG Government is a 15% partner
  • 15 month ramp up to “steady state” production (~3,200 t/mth)
  • Steady-state payable metal production per quarter ~ 20 kt Cu and 29 koz Au
  • C1 costs* o US$1.36/lb Cu for the entire deposit o US$0.80/lb Cu when at projected “steady state” (3,200 t/d) • Undiscounted post-tax net cash flow of US$179 million
  • Discounted net cash flow, discounting at 15% per annum, of US$56 million
  • IRR base case 28%*, rising to 40% using average forward curve metal prices for copper and gold during the production period (as at the PEA's effective date)
  • ~US$243 million of CAPEX remaining to be raised (subject to financing) and spent until production commences
  • Taxes and royalty payments from Solwara 1 are estimated to be more than USD$100 million over the 3 year project life (including ramp-up)

The PEA models first production starting Q3 2019, and also shows that the Project has a high fixed cost component (~52%), largely vessel related, and is highly leveraged to metal grade, metal prices, equipment utilization and production rates. The maximum capacity of the production system is designed at ~6,000 tpd. AMC believes that if a steady-state production rate of 4,500 tpd is achieved, not an unreasonable target in their assessment, then C1 costs would be expected to be lowered to around USD$0.63/lb Cu (net of by-products), well in the lower half of the first quartile of the world copper production curve.

Mike Johnston, Nautilus’ CEO commented: “We are very excited by the results of the PEA. Expected C1 operating costs at US$1.36/lb Cu for the entire project are in the lower half of the cost curve, and include the 15 month ramp up period. Expected “steady-state” C1 operating costs of US$0.80/lb Cu sit comfortably in the lower half of the first quartile of the production curve, and highlight the potentially seriously disruptive nature of seafloor mining to the world's mining industry. These are very competitive capital and operating costs, and have additional room to move.”

The production systems on which the PEA is based are currently under construction.

The Nautilus business model is based on using the capital, IP, and know how that Nautilus has developed for the Solwara 1 Project, and applying it to future discoveries at minimal additional CAPEX cost, and with a much reduced “ramp up curve” for subsequent projects.

The oceans have significant potential to provide the key minerals (copper, gold, silver, zinc, nickel, cobalt and manganese) needed by the world as it transitions to a low carbon future based on electric vehicles and batteries. Nautilus’ seafloor production system with its very small environmental footprint, lack of tailings, and industry leading OPEX and CAPEX costs, will allow the Company and its partner, Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited to lead the world in this exciting new industry.






Nautilus Minerals has appointed Wayne Knott to the role of chief operating officer (COO), effective March 19, 2018.

Knott is a metallurgist with over 30 years of mining industry experience, with particular expertise in dredging, operational start-ups and reviews.

He previously worked for Nautilus Minerals as operations manager during 2010 to 2012, where he was responsible for defining the company’s original operational readiness plan, as well as providing significant input into the design and scope of the current production system for the Solwara 1 project offshore Papua New Guinea.

Knott is MBA qualified with a bachelor’s degree equivalent in Extraction Metallurgy.

Mike Johnston, Nautilus’ CEO said: “We are delighted to have Wayne back leading our project team. Wayne’s expertise in operational start-ups, their design and implementation, combined with his intimate knowledge of our production system, will be invaluable to us as we continue to advance towards completing the build and integration of our system, and launch the seafloor resource production industry.”







A wave of pioneers is poised to scoop up treasure from the deep sea.

But was this ocean mining boom sparked by a 1970s CIA plot?


In the summer of 1974, a large and highly unusual ship set sail from Long Beach in California.

It was heading for the middle of the Pacific where its owners boasted it would herald a revolutionary new industry beneath the waves.

Equipped with a towering rig and the latest in drilling gear, the vessel was designed to reach down through the deep, dark waters to a source of incredible wealth lying on the ocean floor.

It was billed as the boldest step so far in a long-held dream of opening a new frontier in mining, one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed.

But amid all the excited public relations, there was one small hitch - the whole expedition was a lie.

This was a Cold War deception on a staggering scale, but one which also left a legacy that has profound implications nearly half a century later.

The real target of the crew on board this giant ship was a lost Soviet submarine. Six years earlier, the K-129 had sunk 1,500 miles north-west of Hawaii while carrying ballistic nuclear missiles.

The Russians failed to find their sub despite a massive search, but an American network of underwater listening posts had detected the noise of an explosion that eventually led US teams to the wreck.

It was lying three miles down, deeper than any previous salvage operation. The weapons and top-secret code books were surely beyond reach.

But in the struggle for military advantage, the sub represented the crown jewels – a chance to explore Moscow’s nuclear missiles and to break into its naval communications.

So the CIA hatched an audacious plan, Project Azorian, to retrieve the submarine. That would have been hard enough. But there was another challenge as well - it had to be done without the Russians knowing.

The spies needed to create a smokescreen so they pretended to be exploring the possibility of deep sea mining.

A PR campaign conveyed a determined effort to find manganese nodules. These potato-sized rocks lie scattered in the abyss, the great plains of the deep ocean.

There had to be a frontman - someone rich and eccentric enough to be plausible. The reclusive billionaire inventor Howard Hughes was perfect for the role.

He agreed to take part and, in his name, a unique ship was designed. Publicly, it was fitted with everything needed to dig up the seabed.

But, covertly, the Hughes Glomar Explorer was also built with ingenious devices straight from a Bond film. The ship’s hull had enormous doors that could swing apart to create a “moon pool”, an underwater opening large enough to accommodate the Soviet sub and keep it hidden.

Tucked away out of sight inside the ship was a “capture vehicle” which had a giant set of claws to straddle the sub and secure it.

It took until 1974, six years after the sinking of the sub, for the CIA to be ready. The cost of the project - $500m - was equivalent then to building a couple of aircraft carriers or launching an Apollo mission to the moon.

"We really misled a lot of people and it’s surprising that the story held together for so long
- Dave Sharp, former CIA operative

No-one had ever attempted anything on this scale in such incredible depths. The sub itself had a weight of nearly 2,000 tonnes but the three miles of thick steel pipe needed to haul it up added even more.

New systems were needed to keep the Glomar Explorer in position as well as to handle the huge load, and everyone on board was nervous. Dave Sharp, one of the few CIA figures happy to talk about the project, tells me it was “really frightening” when heavy seas threatened to tear their unusual vessel apart.

But even more alarming was the suspicion of the Russians. To convince them that Howard Hughes was genuinely interested in nodules, executives were despatched to conferences on ocean mining where they described in detail their plans to harvest the rocks.

“We made ocean mining seem a lot more credible,” Sharp says. “We really misled a lot of people and it’s surprising that the story held together for so long.”

The cover was so good that it prompted US universities to move to start courses in deep sea mining and it also whipped up the share prices of the companies involved. “People thought, ‘if Howard Hughes is into it, we need to be too’,” says Sharp.

“We even collected a few nodules,” he remembers, which was fortunate because Soviet spy ships kept a constant vigil and once even came close enough to overhear the Americans’ conversations.

“When we realised they were right alongside, we started talking about nodules, like ‘here’s a good one’ so it looked like we were checking them.”

Yet another complication arose. The project needed calm weather and that was only likely in summer. But just when it was about to begin in summer 1974, US President Richard Nixon was visiting Moscow for a peace-making summit.

Being caught stealing a Soviet sub would not exactly have helped, so Nixon insisted that the operation could not begin until he had left Russia. That was on 3 July. By then the Hughes Glomar Explorer was in position and the winches whirred into action the next day.

Things did not go smoothly. Sharp recalls that pumps and connections kept breaking. Huge vibrations rocked the ship as the “capture vehicle” was “banging back and forth in the waves”. But on 30 July, he watched as underwater cameras relayed video of the sub as well as “dozens of crawling crab-like crustaceans” and a big white fish that looked like a shark.

Amazingly, the giant steel claws successfully seized the sub. But then disaster struck. At some point on the way up, the immense strain became too much, part of a claw snapped off and most of the sub slipped back to the seabed.

Only the front section made it up. The bodies of six Soviet submariners were recovered and were later given a formal burial at sea. But the missiles and code books were never found.

The CIA official history asserts that the operation was one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Cold War, but it had cost vast sums and questions immediately arose about its value. A year later, the sensational details became public and plans to recover the remaining section were abandoned.

As Sharp puts it, the revelation that the deep sea mining project was fake was “a sudden shock” to other mining companies and also to diplomats at the UN who were right in the middle of negotiating future rights to ocean minerals. Share prices tumbled amid a wave of recriminations.

This might have derailed the very notion of deep sea mining for good. But in fact it proved that with clever engineering and a lavish budget it was possible – just - to operate in the otherworldly depths. “It’s really difficult but we showed it could be done,” says Sharp.



Commonwealth Countries At The Forefront Of Deep-Sea Mining Policy


Commonwealth Countries At The Forefront Of Deep-Sea Mining Policy


Experts in international environmental ocean law met at the Commonwealth headquarters last week to discuss environmental damages liability in relation to seabed mining and mineral exploitation.

The two-day working group, comprised of lawyers from around the world, was hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

The working group has been examining legal liability issues for future scenarios of mining in the deep-sea in waters beyond national jurisdiction, with the aim to provide useful research and analysis to policy-makers currently negotiating the text of draft international regulations known as 'the Mining Code'.The working group plans to publish a package of research papers in July 2018.

'Deep-sea minerals' is a collective term for metal-bearing deposits under the ocean floor. Rising global demand for metals has led to commercial interest in extracting these resources, though no such mining has taken place yet. A principal function of the International Seabed Authority is to regulate deep seabed mining in seabed areas that are outside of any one country's national jurisdiction. The Authority is mandated, simultaneously, to ensure effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects which may arise from such activities. All fifty-three Commonwealth member countries are members of the International Seabed Authority, and responsible for approving relevant regulations. Member states stand to benefit should mining occur in the future also, under the 'common heritage of mankind' doctrine, whereby the proceeds of any mining beyond national jurisdiction must be equitably shared amongst member states.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has a long track record of advising its member countries on natural resources law and policy and offers particular expertise to governments in relation to deep-sea mining and their engagement with International Seabed Authority processes.

The Commonwealth Secretariat's legal advisor and deep sea minerals lead Hannah Lily, who co-chairs the Legal Liability Working Group, will also be facilitating at an international workshop organised by the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office focused on the International Seabed Authority's draft Mining Code, held in London at the Royal Society 12 - 13 February.

Hannah Lily commented; 'The majority of the world's deep-sea mining policies and laws exist in Commonwealth countries. Most of these have been drafted with the assistance of Commonwealth Secretariat advisers. We hope that events like these two February workshops will enable Commonwealth governments to share their experiences and expertise more widely, to inform the development of the international regime. There are many unknowns in this field, and many difficult questions on the table, but inclusive collective working and transparent information-sharing should help in the efforts to develop a robust legal framework within which seabed mineral resources can be managed sustainably and accountably, for the benefit of all humankind'.


Results indicate that they do (work underwater)


Results indicate that they do (work underwater)


Underwater mining hopeful Nautilus Minerals (CN:NUS) says the submerged trials of its seafloor production tools were successful, less than a week after announcing it had secured critical bridging financing from its largest shareholders.

The company said last week it had received bridge loans totalling US$4.75 million and expected further loans to form part of a larger secured structured credit facility of up to US$34 million, and was also working with M. Horn & Co on remaining project financing of up to $350 million.

"The overarching objective of the trial was to ensure that all three machines met the requirements of their respective functional design specifications in submerged conditions," CEO Mike Johnston said yesterday.

"Results indicate that they do."

The company plans to complete a full report on the trials by the end of the quarter and said it was preparing the equipment for shipment to China to be integrated onto the vessel.

Nautilus recently embarked on a board renewal process to support the financing and delivery of a deep sea mine at its Solwara 1 copper-gold-silver deposit off PNG.

It was granted two new exploration licences by PNG last week and said it would test the area, subject to receiving additional funding under the bridge loans and potential credit facility transaction.

Shares in the company rose 8.3% yesterday to C19.5c, representing a 25.8% gain year-to-date.






AS THE INTERNATIONAL Seabed Authority (ISA) drafts regulations to govern the mining of the ocean for valuable minerals, the European Parliament has called for a ban on seabed mining until the environmental impacts and risks of disturbing unique deep-sea ecosystems are understood.

In a resolution, the European Parliament also urged the European Commission to persuade member states to stop sponsoring and subsidizing licenses to explore and exploit the seabed in international waters as well as within their own territories. The seabed mining provisions were part of a larger measure on international ocean governance that addressed plastic pollution, climate change, fisheries, coral reefs and other marine issues.

According to the resolution, the European Parliament "calls on the Commission and the member states to support an international moratorium on commercial deep-sea mining exploitation licenses until such time as the effects of deep-sea mining on the marine environment, biodiversity and human activities at sea have been studied and researched sufficiently and all possible risks are understood."

While the resolution that passed on January 16 is nonbinding and the European Parliament has no legal say in international deep-sea mining, it marks the highest-profile opposition to date to the nascent industrialization of the seabed, a process that is proceeding largely out of public sight under the jurisdiction of the International Seabed Authority. The United Nations-chartered body headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, consists of 168 member states that issue licenses to corporations and state-owned companies for the exploration and eventual mining of the seabed. The ISA is currently developing regulations that would permit the extraction from the deep sea of mineral deposits rich in manganese, nickel, iron, cobalt and rare elements crucial in the manufacture of smartphones, solar panels, batteries and other products essential to the global economy.

"The resolution has no formal legal authority, but because a large majority of the European Parliament voted in support of it, I think it will have some real political weight," Matthew Gianni, the cofounder of the nonprofit Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, said of the measure, which received 558 votes out of 666 cast. "Certainly there is a growing debate within the E.U. over whether or not seabed mining needs to be done or should be done."

The secretary-general of the International Seabed Authority, Michael Lodge, told Oceans Deeply in an email that, "This seems to be something internal to the European Parliament. It is not something that the ISA would have any comment about."

Like Gianni, Conn Nugent, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Seabed Mining Project, is a close observer of the ISA. He was more skeptical of the European Parliament's influence. "There is no evidence (so far, at least) that any national government is prepared to endorse what they said in this regard," Nugent said in an email.

On the other hand, he noted, "I would also say that the ... resolution reflects a modest but noticeable upsurge in the interest level about deep-sea mining among West European environmentalists. If that modest upsurge were to grow into a strong movement, and if that movement were to influence the votes of E.U. member-state delegations in the ISA, well, that would be worth watching."

The ISA to date has issued exploration licenses to 28 contractors that cover more than 520,000 square miles (1.3 million square km) of the seabed in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Contractors -- ranging from Lockheed Martin subsidiary UK Seabed Resources to the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association -- are targeting millions of potato-sized polymetallic nodules that cover the Pacific Ocean floor between Hawaii and Mexico; hydrothermal vent fields that contain polymetallic sulfides; and underwater mountains called seamounts rich in cobalt and other metals.

Once thought to be a vast wasteland where few organisms could survive crushing pressures, perpetual darkness and freezing temperatures, the seafloor remains barely explored, but marine scientists now know it's home to a diversity of distinctive life forms whose fragile habitats are among the areas targeted for mining. Little is also known about the impact of mining the seabed on those ecosystems and whether such activities could lead to the extinction of marine life found only in particular habitats at depths that can reach 4 miles (6km) below the ocean surface.

That has prompted researchers, conservation groups and some government officials to urge the ISA to put large swathes of the seabed off-limits to mining and to impose strict environmental rules on contractors.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which regulates marine activities beyond national jurisdiction, declared the seafloor to be "the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole." It also mandated "effective protection for the marine environment from harmful effects which may arise from such activities" and the "prevention of damage to the flora and fauna of the marine environment."

The seabed authority tried to balance those seemingly conflicting obligations in draft "exploitation" regulations released by its Legal and Technical Commission at the ISA's annual meeting in Kingston last August, with the aim of adopting a mining code by 2020 to allow mining to proceed.

But comments on the draft regulations submitted by member states, mining contractors, scientists and conservation groups that the ISA released earlier this month indicate that significant differences remain.

China, Japan and South Korea -- nations that hold mining exploration licenses and plan to mine the seabed -- cautioned against burdening mining contractors with excessive environmental regulations. Japan, for instance, stated that the seabed authority should not require regular inspections of mining operations to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

"To minimize the burdens of states, contractors and the Secretariat of the ISA including financial burdens, Japan is of the view that it is appropriate not to have inspections by inspectors on a regular basis but to have them only when deemed necessary," Japan's representatives wrote.

Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries that do not hold exploration licenses advocated for strong environmental standards, enforcement and monitoring. They said the seabed authority should implement the precautionary principle approach, which would deny licenses for mining projects when insufficient scientific evidence exists about the potential impact on deep-sea ecosystems.

"South Africa stresses the importance of conservation of the marine environment and that any exploration or exploitation of the international seabed should be sustainable," wrote the representatives from South Africa. "The code is currently particularly weak on environmental aspects," they added.

"A transparent and credible environmental impact assessment process is needed, but there is currently no transparency on information on contracts outside the Legal and Technical Commission due to confidentiality issues," the delegates said.

Other countries and the European Parliament in its resolution echoed concerns over a lack of transparency at the ISA. Under current rules, the ISA considers mining contracts to be confidential, as are the environmental data and compliance reports contractors regularly submit to the seabed authority's Legal and Technical Commission, a group of 30 delegates who review and approve mining concessions. The Commission withholds that information from the ISA Council, the organization's 36-member policymaking body as well as the full assembly of member states.

The ISA member states will meet in March and July in Jamaica to negotiate the regulations in light of the comments received.

The European Parliament is just one of a growing number of observers taking an interest in the seabed authority and the mining regulations. For instance, the Benioff Ocean Initiative, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and funded by Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, submitted comments recommending that the ISA require all seabed mining vessels to be equipped with tracking devices called Automatic Identified Systems so their activities could be monitored in real time.






Nautilus Minerals Inc. is pleased to provide an update on submerged trials for the Company’s Seafloor Production Tools, with the final machine, the Bulk Cutter, due to finish trials next month.

Submerged trials of the Collecting Machine and Auxiliary Cutter were completed late last year.

To date, the Bulk Cutter has completed commissioning of the power and control system, on-shore functions testing, submerged function testing and submerged endurance trials. Remaining trials will focus on overall cutting performance, a key criteria for this machine.

Ongoing analysis of the results to date indicates that the Seafloor Production Tools can perform to design specifications with the machine components all functioning as designed in submerged conditions. The cutting performance of the Auxiliary Cutter has been particularly positive.

Approximately 770 tonnes of material was cut during trials, with the Nautilus site team commenting that the material appears at least three times harder than the mineralised material at Solwara 1, (even allowing for the hyperbaric effect on material located at seafloor depths of the Solwara 1 Project which are far greater than the depths at which the trials were conducted). The Company will provide a comprehensive analysis once all test work and data analysis is complete.

Mike Johnston, Nautilus’ CEO commented; “We are extremely pleased with the progress that continues to be made on the trialling of the Seafloor Production Tools. The results of the trials to date indicate that the machines have been meeting and/or exceeding their key design specifications. These results have been achieved through the dedicated work of our staff, key contractors (SMD and KDI), and support staff (Curtain Brothers, Papua New Guinea), and within a tight budget. The performance of these machines is critical to our seafloor production system, and the results to date significantly de-risk the project. We look forward to providing future updates once the Bulk Cutter trialling is completed, said Johnson.






Having recently taken delivery of a diamond exploration and sampling vessel from the yard, De Beers is planning to return to Kleven Verft in Norway for a seabed mining vessel.  

De Beers Marine Namibia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kleven for an offshore vessel designed to support seabed mining operations. 

The vessel, designed, like the earlier vessel, Nujoma, by Norwegian design company Marin Teknikk, will be 176 m in length with a breadth of 27 m, making it the longest vessel to date to be built at Kleven in Ulsteinvik, Norway.

The MT 6027 design is derived from Marin Teknikk's long-established and highly regarded MT offshore series, which have been built in large numbers. It will have accommodation for 109 people and will be designed to meet the requirements of ECO (Clean Design) class notation. A key focus of the design will be low fuel consumption. The vessel will have diesel-electric frequency controlled propulsion, highly efficient azimuth thrusters, a four-point mooring system and dynamic positioning.

“We are really pleased to continue our partnership with De Beers Marine Namibia, and to work with them on the realisation of this extraordinary vessel. At this stage it is an MoU, but both parties have every intention of turning this into a firm agreement during the first few months of 2018,” Kleven's chief executive, Ståle Rasmussen said. Kleven delivered Nujoma to De Beers in June 2016.

“With unrivalled sample quality and fuel consumption 30% lower than expected, Nujoma has been a success story for us from the start. We are really pleased with the vessel and the great partnership we have with Kleven and Marin Teknikk, and the realisation of a mining vessel is the natural next step for us,” said Mike Curtis, head of projects in De Beers Marine.






CHENNAI: Oil and natural gas have been extracted from the seas for deca­­des, but ores and mineral deposits on the sea floor, which have the potential to change the face of economy, have still been elusive. But Indian scientists are making steady progress and an integrated mining system is under development for demonstration of deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules (manganese nodules). 

The Government of India has an area of 75,000 sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for carrying out survey and exploration of these potato-shaped, largely porous nodules, found in abundance carpeting the sea floor. A rough estimate says that polymetallic nodules in the site allotted to India by International Seabed Authority (ISA) is about 380 Million Metric Tonne (MMT), with 0.55 MMT of Cobalt, 4.7 MMT of Nickel, 4.29 MMT of Copper and 92.59 MMT of Manganese. 

Speaking to Express on the sidelines of a special thematic session on “Deep Ocean Research,’’ M Rajeevan, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said the Union government had signed a 15-year contract with ISA for exploration of polymetallic nodules, which expired this year. “Now, another five-year extension has been given for India to develop and demonstrate a workable deep-sea mining technology.

National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai has demonstrated the technology on a pilot scale and further research is going on at full pace,” he said.  Rajeevan added it was the biggest ocean engineering challenge, considering these nodules are to be mined from a depth of 6 km in an ultra high-pressure environment. 

NIOT director Satheesh C Shenoy was confident that his team will crack the complex technology. Deep-sea Technologies and Ocean Mining Group of NIOT have already developed the crawler, which weighs 12 tonnes and a soil tester that will determine the characteristics of soil on the seabed where the crawler is deployed. “Currently, our team is developing the pumping system. Different components are being tested and will be integrated shortly. We hope to realise the full technology a couple of years down the line,” he said. 

The idea is to have an integrated mining system where a crawler-based mining machine collects, crushes and pumps nodules to the mother ship using a positive displacement pump through a flexible riser system. It is expected that multiple mining machines will cover the mining field during large scale commercial mining operations. “The challenge is that the heavy crawler has to be lowered to a depth of 6 km using a conducting cable, which should transmit data as well as hold the crawler steady. Any mishap can sink the mother ship,” Shenoy said. 

Rajeevan Nair clarified that India has permission to explore, but not commercially mine the minerals. “No country has the license to do deep-sea mining, but when the time comes, India should be ready to take advantage. India already has the technology to separate the minerals from dredged nodules. The Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology in Bhubaneswar has done lot of work on it.”

India’s Test Mine Site (TMS) is about 6,000 km away from Indian coast deep inside CIOB. Initially, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa had done close grid bathymetric (study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors) surveys in 1.5 million sq km and identified manganese nodules deposits, of which 75,000 sq km was given to India for exploration and development of sustainable mining technology. NIOT director says what the scientists are developing may not be the final technology. “We can only develop an operational product, but it is for the industry to fine tune further to suit their bill,” he added. 

Who regulates sea floor mining?
To regulate sea floor mining, in 1994 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea spawned the International Seabed Authority, an independent treaty organisation. It has jurisdiction over seabed outside exclusive economic zones that surround nations’ shorelines
What are polymetallic nodules?
Manganese nodules are lumps of minerals ranging in size from a potato to a head of lettuce. They are composed mainly of manganese, iron, silicates and hydroxides. The greatest densities of nodules occur off the west coast of Mexico (in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone), in the Peru Basin, and the Indian Ocean 

A rough estimate says that polymetallic nodules in the site allotted to India by International Seabed Authority (ISA) is about 380 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) with 0.55 MMT of Cobalt, 4.7 MMT of Nickel, 4.29 MMT of Copper and 92.59 MMT of Manganese






Pilot test of excavating and ore lifting conducted for seafloor polymetallic sulphides under the sea area near Okinawa Prefecture

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) conducted and succeeded in the world’s first pilot test of excavating and ore lifting for seafloor polymetallic sulphides under the sea area near Okinawa Prefecture. In this test, using excavating/ore-collecting test machines, METI and JOGMEC succeeded in excavating the seafloor polymetallic sulphides lying approximately 1,600m below sea level, continuously collecting and lifting them together with seawater by a submersible pump up onto the ore-lifting support vessel. The success of the test marked a large step toward the establishment of technologies required for the development of ocean mineral resources. METI and JOGMEC will make an economic evaluation in FY2018 based on the results of the test, as well as a variety of results of related research, e.g., estimation of resource amounts and environmental research.

1. Background

Seafloor polymetallic sulphides distributed across sea areas near Okinawa Prefecture and other sea areas are Japan’s indigenous resources. The successful development of these potential resources in Japan is expected to bring about new domestic supply sources of mineral resources, the majority of which Japan relies on imports from overseas to provide it with.

According to the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy (approved by the Cabinet on April 26, 2013) and the Plan for the Development of Marine Energy and Mineral Resources (formulated by METI on December 24, 2013), METI has been promoting initiatives, e.g., research for resource amounts of seafloor polymetallic sulphides under sea areas surrounding Japan and basic study and research concerning production technologies.

2. Outline of the Pilot Test

Based on the results of research for properties of geomorphology and marine environments of the target test sites in the sea areas near Okinawa Prefecture, METI and JOGMEC started the preparation for the pilot test from mid-August 2017. Following this, taking the opportunities of good weather conditions during the period until late September 2017, they collected (absorbed) ore, which had already been excavated and crushed in advance by a excavating test machine, and then, continuously lifted the ore above sea level onto the ore-lifting support vessel from the seafloor below approximately 1,600m multiple times using a submersible pump and an ore-lifting riser pipe, thereby successfully having conducted technical verification and data acquisition concerning a series of steps of this system.

This aims to appropriately verify technologies for continuous ore lifting together with seawater from the sea areas and to acquire data thereof. To this end, METI and JOGMEC meticulously organized conditions according to the purposes of the test, including crushing ore to such a fragment size prior to collecting and lifting to prevent clogging of the pump, manual adjustment of the density of target ore to seawater, and conducting the test only during the period when hydrographic conditions were met.

Before starting this test, METI and JOGMEC conducted research for the anticipated impact of the test on the surrounding environments and carefully confirmed that no serious impact might occur. In addition, even during and after the test, they also conducted environmental monitoring to measure and evaluate the impact of the test on the environment.

3. Coming schedule

For compiling a report of the test results, METI and JOGMEC will extract future challenges in commercialization involving excavating and ore lifting technologies, advance discussions concerning related production technologies, including mineral processing and smelting technologies, as well as mineral resources survey, economic evaluation, environmental study, and other studies. Through these efforts, they will comprehensively promote initiatives for commercialization involving seabed polymetallic sulphides.






BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — Chinese oceanographic research ship Xiangyanghong 06 set sail from the port of Qingdao Tuesday to conduct polymetallic nodule surveys in the east Pacific.

The country’s 47th oceanic expedition is being carried out under an agreement signed by China Minmetals Corporation (CMC) and the International Seabed Authority in May this year, which granted China exclusive rights to search for polymetallic nodules in a 72,000-square-km area of the east Pacific over the next 15 years.

The expedition will survey polymetallic nodule distribution and geologic features, estimate resource amounts and select test mining areas.

The CMC is an important force in China’s exploration and use of maritime mineral resources. The company’s first maritime expedition will last around 90 days. A total of 26 scientists are on board.






India’s exclusive rights to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) have been extended by five years.

These rights are over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters allocated by International Seabed Authority for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules.

The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese.

While, the extraction of metals from the polymetallic nodules lying at the deep ocean floor is not yet found to be economically viable at this stage, an area of about 7860 square km has been identified in the CIOB for the first generation mine site on the basis of detailed surveys and analysis.

Environmental studies for mining of deep-sea polymetallic nodules were also carried out to evaluate the possible impacts of mining on deep-sea environment.

A remotely operable submersible (ROSUB 6000), capable of operating at 6000 m water depth was also developed and tested at a depth of 5289 m.

Furthermore, a remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment was developed for obtaining detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area at CIOB and tested at 5462 m water depth.

A mining system is under development which has been tested for 500m water depth. Metallurgical process routes for extracting copper, nickel and cobalt from polymetallic nodules have been developed and tested in a demonstration pilot plant set up on semi-continuous basis at Hindustan Zinc Limited, Udaipur with a capacity to process 500 kg nodules per day.



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A landmark decision will allow a mining company to dredge 50 million tonnes of ironsand a year from the South Taranaki Bight using a giant magnet, the Environmental Protection Authority says.

The EPA today released its decision in favour of Trans Tasman Resources consent application lodged 12 months ago.

The final decision was split 2:2 between the four members of the decision making committee, with chairman Alick Shaw, making the casting vote to approve the application.

The company's application for consent covered an area of 66 square kilometres between 22km and 36km off the west coast of South Taranaki within New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

The proposal to mine and export titaniferous iron sand was called "a sustainable and world leading development" and would have little environmental effect, the company said.

It had been opposed by Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), Patea - based iwi Ngati Ruanui, and Talley's Fisheries who also submitted against the mining when a previous application by TTR was declined by the EPA in 2014.

KASM and Ngati Ruanui said they will appeal the decision. 

Last year a 6000 signature petition was presented to parliament by KASM and Ngati Ruanui calling for a moratorium on seabed mining.

Much of the concern from opposing groups focused on a sediment plume from the mining process which would be widely dispersed back to the seabed during the dredging.

The plume would affect marine animals living in and outside of the proposed mining area, objectors claimed.

Research by the council found at least five threatened species of invertebrate lived within the proposed mining area.

In August TTR updated its application with further scientific and engineering research, and refined the environmental impact.

Under the application the company plan to dredge up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand each year by separating ore from the sediment on a processing ship.

Around 44m tonnes, or 90 per cent, of the sand would be returned to the seabed into previously mined areas.

The sea floor where the dredging will take place contained no significant marine features, and was an area of significant wave and tidal action.

TTR estimated the project would generate between $20m and $160m in local, regional and national GDP, and provide between 300 and 1650 jobs.

The project would also generate between $45m-$300m in expenditure in Taranaki and nationally, and also add to government income through taxes and royalties, TTR said.

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Kolkata: Scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have discovered the presence of millions of tonnes of precious metals and minerals deep under the waters that surround peninsular India. The vast repository and the prospect of finding huge am-ounts of previously untapped resources in barely-exploited territory hold tremendous potential, say geologists.

The huge presence of marine resources was first identified off Mangaluru, Chennai, Mannar Basin, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and around Lakshadweep in early 2014. The amount of lime mud, phosphate-rich and calcareous sediments, hydrocarbons, metalliferous deposits and micronodules that geologists came across was a clear indication that more extensive exploration could lead to a larger treasure trove.

After three years of exploration, GSI has generated 181,025 square kilometres of high-resolution seabed morphological data and established the occurrence of more than 10,000 million tonnes of lime mud within the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

It has also confirmed the presence of phosphate sediment off Karwar, Mangaluru and Chennai coasts, gas hydrate in the channel-levee system of Mannar Basin off the Tamil Nadu coast, cobalt-bearing ferro-manganese crust from the Andaman Sea and micro-manganese nodules around Lakshadweep Sea.

Three state-of-the-art res-earch vessels — Samudra Ratnakar, Samudra Kaustabh and Samudra Saudikama — carried out this investigation, which was named 'High Resolution Seabed Mapping and Natural Resource Evaluation'.

Ashish Nath, superintendent geologist at GSI, said: "The main objectives were to identify potential zones of favourable mineralization and evaluate marine mineral resources to benefit all stakeholders in the field of mining and geology, specifically industries based on cement, paint, fertilizer, construction and rare earth element."

The results have been mapped and sent to the ministry of mines for appraisal. An enthused ministry, meanwhile, has asked GSI to induct another vessel with shallow water drilling capability by early 2019 to undertake mineral investigation with deeper penetration for 3D modelling of mineral resources and geo-technical investigations.

Apart from geo-scientific research, GSI has also partnered with security agencies to help in investigations, said Nath. "We have helped the National Investigation Agency investigate the Kerala offshore in the Iranian boat case and aided the completion of the probe through scientific inputs. Another survey was done with the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard in the search for IAF's AN-32 aircraft that went missing during its flight from Chennai to Port Blair. Then, there was a short survey off Visakhapatnam for locating a sunken Navy ship using technology installed in one of our vessels," he said.

For three years, GSI has been scouring the seabed within the country's jurisdiction for mineral deposits. It was asked by the ministry of mines, to which it reports, to investigate the underwater potential because of the depleting reserves below the earth's surface. Till date, only 5% of the deep-sea floor, which covers about 60% of the earth's surface, has been properly explored, say scientists.

The GSI, headquartered in the city, is the country's repository of geo-scientific information and mineral resources assessor. It was established in 1851 to identify coal deposits for the railways.






Around the world, countries are claiming obscure and difficult-to-reach tracts of the deep-sea floor, far from the surface and further still from land. Why?

There is a long history of claiming newly discovered territories, of planting the flag at far outposts of the known world.

In the early 20th Century, explorers raced to the South Pole, their sponsors keen to benefit from future exploitation of these unknown areas.

In 1945, President Harry S Truman broke with convention to claim the entire continental shelf off the US.

And, in 2007, Russia used a submersible to plant a flag at the North Pole.

All shared a common motivation - the hunt for new resources - and there is now a new frontier: the deep-sea floor.

Exploration offers the prospect of finding huge amounts of previously untapped resources, but serious environmental concerns remain.

Abysses to mountains

Only 5% of the deep-sea floor, which covers about 60% of the Earth's surface, has been properly explored.

Light penetrates only the top layers, and the vast, deep oceans are pitch-black, with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing point.

Each time it is explored - by mini-submarines tethered to surface ships - strong lights pick out fragile structures and animals that have never been seen before.

But countries and companies are turning their eyes towards its minerals, potentially worth billions of pounds.

Already, there have been significant advances in the technology required to discover, map and mine them - with robotic equipment built to operate at great depths.

There are significant deposits scattered over the plains of the ocean's deepest abysses and encrusted on the rocky outcrops of underwater mountains.

They are also on active and extinct hydrothermal vents - the fissures in the planet's surface from which hot water spouts.

Deep-sea mining, an idea dating back to the 1960s, could now happen within 10 years.

It has been made a possibility by population growth, economic growth and concerns over the supply and security of minerals on land.

Copper, nickel and cobalt can all be found at high concentrations, in mineral deposits, as can the so-called "critical" metals.

These include the rare earth elements used in a range of new technologies such as memory chips, LEDs and batteries for electric vehicles.

It is thought the mountains of the Pacific alone could contain about 22 times more tellurium - which is used in solar panels - than the known land-based reserves combined.

Under pressure

At present there is no exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources, only exploration.

The UK - through a partnership between the government and a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin UK - is among countries exploring one of the main areas, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which stretches across the Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles between Mexico and Hawaii.

There are serious challenges to overcome at this remote location.

Equipment has to function reliably at depths of 5km (three miles) - where pressure is 500 times that at the surface - before deposits are brought on to ships and taken back to land.

There are other resources closer to shore.

Rich deposits of minerals are found at depths of over 1km (0.6 miles) in the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea.

For these easier-to-access reserves, deep-sea mining equipment has been designed, tested and built.

If mining operations go ahead here, they will offer some insights for future and deeper operations.

However, strong opposition remains over concerns about the potential environmental impact.

Churning up

The rules for exploitation are yet to be agreed, but contractors will have to demonstrate they have assessed the environmental impact of mining and that plans are in place to manage the effects.

This is perhaps the greatest challenge for deep-sea mining and the area of greatest tension.

Our understanding of the deep-sea environment is very limited, let alone our understanding of the effects of mining it.

The diversity of life in the oceans, particularly around deep-sea vents and other mineral deposits, is spectacular, yet we know there are many more species still to be discovered.

Recent research by international consortiums of scientists has begun to try to measure the impact of churning up the ocean floor.

Mining could have consequences for many forms of life in the ocean.

That could, in turn, affect the ocean's function as a food source and a carbon sink.

It could also affect the search for new drugs and other products.

For example:

  • An anti-inflammatory extract from a Caribbean octocoral is now used in a commercial skincare range
  • An anti-cancer treatment uses a natural product extracted from a marine sponge
  • A painkiller based on a synthetic derivative from a cone snail is being made

Sea-floor 'owners'

Where the resources are found within 200 nautical miles (370km) of shore, it is up to individual countries to reach agreement about who owns them.

In the deeper international waters, it becomes more difficult.

Here, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is responsible for awarding licenses for mining.

Established by the UN in 1984, its decisions are legally binding on the 166 states - and the EU - who are party to it.

Milestones in deep sea exploration

  • 1934 - William Beebe and Otis Barton descend 923m (3,028ft) in a "bathysphere" - an unpowered deep-sea submersible made of cast-iron, lowered by a cable
  • 1960 - In the Trieste submersible (pictured), Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh explore the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench - the deepest known part of the Pacific Ocean - reaching a depth of roughly 11km

Administering resources defined as being for "the common heritage of mankind", the ISA has so far approved 26 contracts of 15 years.

These are held by 20 sponsor countries, including China and Russia - which have four licences each - and the UK, France, Germany, India and Japan - which have two licences.

Eye on the seas

Licences have to be shared equally with a developing nation - each getting half the sea floor.

The oceans already provide humanity with many resources, but the deep oceans have long been overlooked because of their inaccessibility.

The coming years will potentially see a lot of changes, as our understanding and technology improves.

The race to license areas of the deep ocean will only intensify.

About this piece

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Prof Rachel Mills is dean of the faculty of natural and environmental sciences at the University of Southampton.

She is a member of the Royal Society's Working Group on Future Ocean Resources, upon whose work this article is based







South African-based De Beers Group’s $157m mv SS Nujoma vessel is set to start exploring for diamond deposits in offshore Namibian waters following its official inauguration. 

With the 12,000t, diesel-electric powered Debmarine Namibia will be able to explore the deposits and secure diamond supply in the country. The vessel is equally owned by the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group. 

The Government of the Republic of Namibia Mines and Energy Minister Obeth Kandjoze said: “Today marks an important milestone for offshore diamond mining in Namibia. 

“The mv SS Nujoma represents the largest ever capital investment in underwater diamond mining and will ensure a long-term, sustainable future for offshore diamond mining in Namibia, as well as creating important new jobs for Namibians.”

Measuring 113m in length, the vessel can carry a crew of 80 and is equipped with a helicopter deck suitable for Sikorsky S61s. 

It was constructed in Ulsteinvik, Norway, and is fitted with a subsea sampling system, designed by De Beers Group.

"In order for the sector to thrive, it requires strong and supportive legislative and fiscal regimes."

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said: "The mv SS Nujoma will allow even more of Namibia’s high-quality offshore diamonds to be discovered and mined, ensuring a strong future for Namibia’s diamond industry, as well as the global diamond market."

The vessel inauguration comes after five months of successful sea trials.

The mv SS Nujoma vessel is claimed to incorporate technologies that allow it to sample faster, take larger samples and collect more information per sample than any other diamond sampling vessel. 

Mining of Namibia’s diamonds is expected to take place at around 120m to 140m below sea level.