Underwatertimes.com News Service - October 9, 2006 20:01 EST

Deep-sea prospector Nautilus Mineral Limited plans to use a specialized deep sea mining vessel to explore the [ocean] under their Solwara Project in Papua New Guinea.

The company has entered into a heads of agreement with Belgium based Jan De Nul, the world’s leading dredging company.

Under the agreement, Jan De Nul will construct at its cost the specialized deep sea mining vessel.

The 191-meter vessel, to be named Jules Verne, is expected to be completed in 2009 to meet Nautilus’ target, subject to PNG Government approvals.

The Jules Verne will be a positioned ship capable of deploying mining equipment, pumps and riser pipes for the operations at Solwara 1, which lies on the seafloor in up to 1,700 meters of water.

The plan calls for the copper - gold material to be dredged from the seafloor and pumped to the mining vessel where it would be transferred to barges for transport to a land based concentrator which would produce a gold-rich copper concentrate for dispatch to copper smelters.

Jan De Nul will build, own and operate the mining ship, and will provide barges, tugs and operational capability in its role as mining contractor for the Solwara 1 Project. Nautilus would provide the capital –estimated at US$120 million – for two sub sea miners, power umbilicals, pumps, 1,800 meter riser pipe and related handling equipment.

Jan De Nul would reimburse Nautilus over time for this capital by rebating 6.5 per cent of each monthly contract mining invoice, effectively purchasing the equipment from Nautilus.

"Jan De Nul will join Nautilus in its plans to be the first to mine the deep oceans of the world for copper, gold and zinc. Such a move represents the dawn of a new era in mining: The creation of a whole new industry," Mr Heydon said. "We have seen how the offshore oil and gas industry has evolved since its early days – to the point where society is now reliant on offshore oil/gas to meet its needs. Likewise, seafloor resources may one day be critical for society to meet its future needs for copper and zinc."