Nautilus Minerals Inc says it’s poised to begin undersea mining following dispute settlement – by Peter Koven (National Post – June 26, 2014)

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A lot of investors won’t believe it until they see it. But Nautilus Minerals Inc. maintains it is back on track to become the world’s first company to mine metals under the sea.

“It’s been a very exciting year,” chairman Geoffrey Loudon said at the company’s annual meeting in Toronto on Wednesday. “A lot of things have happened that we’ve waited an awful long time for.”

Most significantly, the company settled a two-year dispute with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) over ownership of its Solwara 1 copper-gold project in April. The dispute was a giant black cloud over the company.

But there are significant hurdles ahead. For one thing, Toronto-based Nautilus still needs to secure a ship, something it has been talking about for many years. At the meeting, chief executive Mike Johnston said that should be a done deal by November, with Nautilus either chartering a ship or buying one.

Following that event, he laid out a path that could bring the company into first production as soon as 2017. And once Solwara 1 is mined out, Nautilus can theoretically move its ship and seafloor mining equipment over to the next deposit.

“Seeing is believing for a lot of people,” he acknowledged in an interview.

Oil and gas companies have been drilling offshore for decades, but Nautilus, which emerged on the public markets in 2006, is the first company to take a serious shot at extracting underwater metals. There is one obvious reason to do so: the quality of the deposits. The copper and gold grades at Solwara 1 are several times higher than comparable deposits on land, meaning costs are very low.

While there have been plenty of skeptics from the beginning, Nautilus has enjoyed support from mining companies like Anglo American PLC and Teck Resources Ltd. And when the company was granted a deep-sea mining lease for Solwara 1 in 2011, there was growing optimism that the project would happen.
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