Nautilus Minerals: Mining PNG’s Seabed

This post has been in the pipeline for a while now because I was waiting for Nautilus Minerals to give me permission to use a couple of their images from their website – and yes, after a couple of questions as to why I wanted to use their images, permission was granted yesterday.

Nautilus Minerals has been somewhat criticised since they publicly declared their intention to pursue seabed mining in PNG. The purpose of this post is not to analyse the pros or cons of their legal right to mine sections of our seabed (that may come later), rather it is to inform you of how they plan to do it – which in itself is important to understand.

It is neccessary to point out that Nautilus Minerals is the first company to commercially explore the ocean floor for gold and copper sea-floor massive sulphide deposits and if they do do manage to successfully mine our seabed, then it will be history in the making.

There are three main stages or components to their mining system:

  1. Seafloor Mining Tool
  2. Riser & Lifting System
  3. Mining Support Vessel

See the following image:

Nautilus Minerals' Proposed Seabed Mining System

The first step in the extraction process involves cutting the seafloor material and drawing it into the suction mouth of the Seafloor Mining Tool (SMT) as slurry. It is then transported to a pumping module and lifted up a steel riser pipe to the Mining Support Vessel (MSV) on the surface where the material is dewatered. After dewatering, the ore is transferred to barges on a continuous cycle for shipment to a nearby port facility.

You may be shocked (as I was) to find out that Nautilus has commissioned only two SMTs to be built. That’s not the shocking bit – the shocking bit is that each one weighs 190 tonnes! That is one beast of a machine and the system is designed to operate at a peak production rate of 6,000 tonnes/day.

The impressive thing about this mining system is that Nautilus has essentially “invented” it. The company has combined skills from onshore mining, dredging and deep water construction to create the specifications for the three main components of the mining system.

Earlier this year, Nautilus signed a contract with a Norwegian firm to construct a 160m dynamically positioned specialist new build ship worth US$125 million.

~ by Tavurvur on November 12, 2008.

7 Responses to “Nautilus Minerals: Mining PNG’s Seabed”

  1. Very interesting post, it’s amazing how technology keeps moving forward. My grandfather founded a company, Deep Sea Ventures, in the 1960s, a short description of which I’ve pasted below. It’s from the 1998 program for the Moore Medal for Initiatives in Marine Mining.

    Jack Flipse Deep Sea Ventures Inc., Industry Leader, Confrontationist, and Visionary In 1963, Jack Flipse , then a senior official at Newport News Shipbuilding Co., initiated a program, based on John Mero’s work, to develop a commercial operation to produce metals from deep seabed manganese nodules. He formed a new company, Deep Sea Ventures Inc., later the lead partner in Ocean Mining Associates (OMA), and carried out the first serious tests on the production and environmental effects of deep seabed mining, in 1966 on the Blake Plateau. This test was very successful and effectively put to rest the then current myth that mining the seabed at that depth would reawaken some long dormant species of sea creature which would at the very least envelop the mining vessel and all its crew with an impenetrable coaling of green slime. More than innovative, DSV was refreshingly open about the work they were doing, and the goals they had set. Mr. Flipse was always ready to argue his case publicly, and secrets were not a part of his company’s approach.

  2. I guess the greatest fear is that it is a mining operation and there has never been a non polluting mining operation. So after all the pain that PNG went through with OK Tedi, I would think that people want to know exactly what sort of pollutants will come from these operations and how much damage and effects it will cause both in the short term and the long term.

  3. It is amazing how technology keeps moving forward but I think its important to remember that technology WILL NOT and CAN’T solve all of mankind’s problems.

    Here’s the question I ask myself:

    With PNG’s past and present problems in regard to regulating mining on land – how will we ever be able to sufficiently protect the mining of our seas?

  4. […] Tubuans & Dukduks has “Nautilus Minerals: Mining PNG’s Seabed“. […]

  5. The land, the ocean and the sky are related. Disturbance of land is past and present hystory with disturbance of the ocean as the immediate future (what next, the sky too?). As much as it is a marvel in the advancement of technology in as far as deep sea ventures is concerned,It is hopeful that technology would be able to support and protect the biosphere’s equilebriums so as not to cause the sky to start weeping.

  6. To update you on this project and funding from Norway:

    http://www.mediaglobal.org/article/2009-02-05/analysis-digging-in-neptunes-kingdom-the-first-deep-sea-mining-project

  7. I READ WITH GREAT INTEREST AND AM EXCITED TO POST THIS COMMENT.
    ON LAND WE SEE THE DISTURBANCES OF OUR NATURAL ENVIROMENT AND ITS EFFECTS. THAT WE CALCULATE RISKS AND MEASURE THE RISKS AND THE EXPANSE OF ADVERSE EFFECTS.
    I WONDER HOW MUCH ADVERSE EFFECT WE CAN CALCULATE TO ESTIMATE ITS SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM RISKS TO THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.
    JUST TO ADD TO MY ENQUIRY,IF THE SEA FLOOR IS MINED AT 12 000 TONES PER DAY, THAT MEANS SEVERAL HILLS, MOUNTAINS WILL BE LEVELLED, VALLEYS CREATED AND IT WILL CREATE AN HIGHWAY FOR THE SEAFLOOR CURRENT, DESTROYING THE LIVELIHOOD OF THE SEA FLOOR ECOLOGIC FOOD CHAIN. WHAT WILL THE CONSUMER (NATIVES) AT THE END OF THE FOOD CHAIN SURVIVE ON WHEN THIS FOOD CHAIN IS DESTROYED?

    THANKS
    PRO-MARINE LIFE

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