GAME OVER! Papua New Guinea Deep Sea Mining Experiment Fails

Deep Sea Mining Campaign – Alliance of Solwara Warriors – MiningWatch Canada

(Papua New Guinea) Nautilus Minerals’ aspirations to be the world's first deep sea mining company sink to the bottom of the ocean on news that the project support vessel critical to the development of the company's deep sea mining project in Papua New Guinea has been purchased for repurposing by Indian company MDL Energy.

Dr. Helen Rosenbaum of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said: “Nautilus’ Production Support Vessel was the centrepiece of their model of operation. Without the support vessel it's difficult to see Nautilus ever developing its Solwara 1 project. Given Nautilus’ dire financial circumstances it is fair to say the game is over. There seems little chance of them re-paying their bridging loans when these become due in less than a month. The Solwara 1 experiment can be deemed a failure, and the people of the Bismarck Sea of Papua New Guinea have hopefully been spared an environmental disaster."[1]

Dr. Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada stated, "If Nautilus sinks, the amazing hydrothermal vents targeted for mining with their unique and diverse life forms will be given a reprieve, as will the marine ecosystems and fisheries of the Bismarck Sea. Local communities have been fighting hard to preserve their way of life and their livelihoods for their children and children's children."  

Jonathan Mesulam from the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, added, "My village is located in New Ireland province, only 25 km from the proposed Solwara 1 project. It will be good news for my people if Nautilus goes bankrupt – instead of bankrupting our sea. We will fight this project to the very end."

Mesulam continued, "The Alliance of Solwara Warriors launched a legal case in PNG's courts over a year ago.[2] We are concerned that the Papua New Guinean Government has attempted to have our legal case dismissed. We are now talking to our legal team about filing substantive court proceedings against Nautilus and the State to stop the project. One way or another we will chase Nautilus and Solwara 1 from PNG's waters!"

Sir Arnold Amet, former Papua New Guinean Attorney General, declared, "I have been warning our Government publicly and privately about the financial mess they will find themselves in when this experimental company fails.[3] The PNG Government invested heavily to purchase 15% of Nautilus and this will now translate into 15% of its bankruptcy and any debts the company owes. Our nation cannot afford this. The Government should now terminate the contract with Nautilus and cancel all permits for the Solwara 1 operation."

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[1] Canadian company Nautilus Minerals Inc. has been desperately seeking funds for its flagship Solwara 1 deep sea mining project. Commercial operation has been delayed year after year since it received its licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck sea in 2011. In a last-ditch bid to finance Solwara 1, Nautilus's two largest shareholders, Russian mining company Metalloinvest and Omani conglomerate MB Holdings, have formed a new company whose sole job is to secure funding for the Solwara 1 project. However, their attempts have failed. See Nautilus signs funding mandate with major shareholders, Nautilus Minerals press release, 11 October 2017.

[2] Legal action launched over the Nautilus Solwara 1 Experimental Seabed Mine, media release, Alliance of Solwara Warriors and Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCoR), 8 December 2017; Troubled Papua New Guinea deep-sea mine faces environmental challenge, The Guardian, 12 December 2017; World-first mining case launched in PNG, Lawyers Weekly, 14 December 2017.

[3] Nautilus Solwara 1 on the verge of bankruptcy as APEC Summit heads to Papua New Guinea, media release, 12 November 2018; Former Attorney General of Papua New Guinea: The writing is on the wall for Solwara 1 – PNG should withdraw its investment before it’s too late, media release, 17 January 2018;;‘Former PNG AG attacks deep sea mining project, Radio New Zealand International, 24 October 2017.

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