BY ELISABETH BEHRMANN
NAUTILUS MINERALS, a Canadian company planning an underwater mine for copper and gold off the Papua New Guinea coast, said countries will try to stake out the seabed as mineral deposits on land become harder to mine.
“Like anything where there’s a geopolitical uncertainty, people will look to maximise their position,” Tony O’Sullivan, chief operating officer of Toronto-based Nautilus, said in an interview in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
“New copper projects are becoming more remote, are becoming deeper and are becoming metallurgically more challenging,” O’Sullivan said.
“I don’t think there’s a view that we’re running out of copper or there’s a scarcity but I think there’s a view that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to develop on land.”
The current average grade of copper deposits is 0.6% dropping from about 1% in 1990, compared with 6.5% for Nautilus’ $407 million Solwara project located at a depth of 1.6 kilometres in the Bismarck Sea.
The project, 30% owned by the PNG government, is expected to start at the end of 2013.