The commissioning and factory acceptance testing of Nautilus Minerals’ third and final Seafloor Production Tool (SPT), the auxiliary cutter, has commenced at Soil Machine Dynamics’ facility at Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Nautilus’ CEO, Mike Johnston said, “We are very excited that the commissioning of the final of the three SPTs has begun. With the bulk cutter and the collecting machine having already begun factory acceptance testing and now with the auxiliary cutter under way, we are on track to complete this testing phase and take delivery of the three SPTs in the fourth quarter of 2015.”
The auxiliary cutter will weigh in at 250 tonnes when fully assembled. It is a preparatory machine that deals with rough terrain and creates benches for the other SPTs to work. It will operate on tracks with spud assistance and has a boom mounted cutting head for flexibility.
The excavation and collection of mineralized material has been split into three individual tasks, which will each be carried out by a different SPT. The auxiliary cutter is designed as the pioneering tool which prepares the rugged sea bed for the more powerful bulk cutter. These two tools gather the excavated material; the third, the collecting machine, will collect the cut material by drawing it in as seawater slurry with internal pumps and pushing it through a flexible pipe to the subsea pump and on to the vessel via the Riser and Lifting System.
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, in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, where it is aiming to produce copper, gold and silver. The company has also been granted its environmental permit for this site.