The three Seafloor Production Tools (SPTs) constructed for use by Nautilus Minerals at the Solwara 1 seafloor mining project in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea have arrived at Duqm Port in Oman for extensive wet testing.

The project is owned by the Solwara 1 Joint Venture, comprising Nautilus 85% and Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited 15%.

The SPTs were designed and assembled in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, by Soil Machine Dynamics, and Nautilus ultimately plans to use them to cut and extract high grade copper and gold from the seafloor in the Bismarck Sea.

The wet testing program is being undertaken by the Solwara 1 Joint Venture production team and representatives of Soil Machine Dynamics, with further logistics and engineering support from United Engineering Services Ltd, in Duqm Port.

The testing is one of the next major steps in the progression towards seafloor production and will involve submerged testing of:

  • Control systems operations and feedback;
  • Hydraulic functions;
  • Collection system functions; and
  • Survey and visualization systems.

The preparatory works for the program will commence in April with initial testing operations scheduled to occur shortly thereafter.

Nautilus’ CEO, Mike Johnston said “The Solwara 1 Joint Venture partners are delighted that the SPTs have made it safely to Duqm Port. We look forward to commencing our wet testing program with the support of UES and Soil Machine Dynamics (UK), and I look forward to reporting the results to our shareholders and the market in general.”

Initial seafloor production operations are planned to commence at the Solwara 1 project site in quarter one of 2018.

Nautilus is the first company to explore the ocean floor for polymetallic seafloor massive sulphide deposits. Nautilus was granted the first mining lease for such deposits at the prospect known as Solwara 1, where it is aiming to produce copper, gold and silver. The company has also been granted its environmental permit for this site.