Company drops plans for seabed mining

Nautilus Minerals has decided to terminate the construction of equipment for its seafloor production system in the development of the Solwara 1 Project off the Papa New Guinea coast.

Canada-based company Nautilus Minerals had planned to mine gold and copper from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, the first operation of its kind anywhere in the world.

But a dispute with the PNG Government over the shared costs of developing the project has seen Nautilus pull out in order to ‘preserve its cash position.’

Nautilus says the government has a ‘contractual obligation to pay an amount of approximately $23.5 million in respect of costs incurred in the development’ but states that because “an agreed commercial resolution with the State has not been achieved” the company could no longer afford to carry the total development costs.

CEO Mike Johnston said while the decision to terminate the project was difficult, the company remained committed to projects in the Central Pacific.

Last month locals in PNG petitioned the government to stop a seabed mining project along the nation’s coast, stating that exploration works were polluting the water.

Seabed mining also remains a contentious issue in Australia.

After a spike in the number of seabed exploration applications off the Northern Territory coast, the state banned seabed mining until at least 2015, during which an assessment on the impact of underwater mining will be carried out.

However, yesterday Northern Territory Mines and Energy Minister said the moratorium on seabed mining could be lifted before 2015 following discussions with traditional owners about their concerns over seabed mining applications.

The land owners, the Anindilyakwa Land Council, say operations between the island and mainland threaten sacred sites, with The Northern Land Council head Kim Hill adding that there is a lack of research regarding the method.

"It is an international concern and it is a concern for all Australians," Hill told the ABC.

"Importantly, it is a concern for traditional owners."

Last year, former Greens leader Bob Brown called for an investigation into Pacific seabed mining.

“The Australian Greens are calling for scrutiny of what deep seabed mining means for the health of our oceans and our own country's natural marine resources and fisheries into the future," Brown said at the time.

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