Beyond PNG, in international waters, regulation and royalty terms for mining the planet´s subsea wealth have also yet to be finalised. The world waits for the judgment of a United Nations agency based in Jamaica.
“If we can take care of the environment we have a brand new day ahead of us. The marine area beyond national jurisdiction is 50 percent of the Ocean,” said Nii Odunton, secretary general of the UN´s International Seabed Authority (ISA).
“I believe the grades look good, the abundance looks good, I believe that money will be made,” Odunton said from the ISA offices in Kingston.
High-tech advances, depleted easy-to-reach minerals onshore and historically high prices have boosted the idea of mining offshore, where metals can be fifteen times the quality of land deposits.
In Newcastle, the “beasty”, as engineer Keith Franklin calls his machine, lies in wait, resembling a submersible tank with four metre wide cutting blades.
Built by Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), it will put Canadian listed Nautilus Minerals on course to become the first company to commercially mine in deep water.
Nautilus´ primary resource, Solwara 1, about 1,500 metres underwater, is a Seafloor Massive Sulphide (SMS) deposit, which forms along hydrothermal vents where mineral-rich fluids spurt from cracks in the ocean crust.