By BOSORINA ROBBY
THE proposed Solwara1 ocean floor mining by Nautilus Minerals Ltd in the Bismarck Sea has complied with environment and mining laws of Papua New Guinea, the company’s PNG country manager Mel Togolo says, The National reports.
He also told the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Environment Seminar on Wednesday that an important aspect of the project was its smaller physical footprint compared with land-based mining.
Solwara1 will commercially explore for seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits, which are high grades of copper, gold, zinc and silver, in deep sea mining off the coasts of New Ireland and East New Britain provinces.
Togolo said some advantages of deep sea mining, a world first in PNG, was the use of reusable infrastructure and technology like offshore diamond drilling, dredging, onshore mining and pumps systems of oil and gas fields.
“The advantage of being out at sea is that there will be limited social disturbance, and there are no human presence at the depth of 1,600m, which is how far down the mine is located,” he said.
Togolo said worker safety would be protected because most of the work would be done by robots and machines programmed to work at such depths, which are too cold and deep for humans, which are all controlled on board a command ship.
“We will have minimal waste as what comes out goes back into the sea, and we will have minimal overburden because there is no land for us to get rid off before getting to the ore deposits,” he said.
Togolo said during his presentation that Nautilus Minerals had been given government approval in the form of a permit to explore and a permit to operate a mine after satisfying procedures outlined in the Environment Act 2000 and Mining Act 1992.
He said these permits were presented in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
Togolo said the project has also applied for and received approval from the relevant communities or those who are closer to the project.
He said preliminary awareness programmes included transparent and inclusive stakeholder engagement and workshops involving communities, world-renowned experts, government and non-governmental organisation.
Given that production was set to start in 2013, Nautilus Minerals was seeking acceptance or social licence to disaggregate seafloor material, transport the material to a ship and transport to a market.
Togolo mentioned that the coastal communities were most concerned about environmental issues such as the protection of the marine environment with emphasis on tuna, reefs, whales, sharks and turtles.
In response, Nautilus Minerals said that with the extraction taking place below the level the tuna population, their feeding and breeding grounds would not be affected.
However, Togolo said the only impact on surface waters would be the presence of the vessels and supporting vessels and riser pipes which will transport the ore from the seafloor up to the vessel.