NAUTILUS Minerals continues to award contracts for various specialized equipment and services to enable it to mine the Solwara 1 project on the seafloor to the north of Papua New Guinea. Most contracts awarded recently have been for components of the Production Support Vessel (PSV), which is being constructed at the shipyard operated by Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding Limited.

The Bulk Cutter, which is the primary ‘workhorse’ of the three seafloor production tools. Photo courtesy Nautilus Minerals.

The Bulk Cutter, which is the primary ‘workhorse’ of the three seafloor production tools. Photo courtesy Nautilus Minerals.

Contracts have recently been awarded for the integrated vessel control system (IVCS) and for the detailed design of the dewatering plant with both to be used on the PSV. Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime was awarded the former contract and the Brisbane office of the DRA Group the latter.

The IVCS package comprises dynamic positioning, marine automation, information management and navigation systems. The IVCS will keep the vessel within specified position and heading limits while seafloor mining operations are performed.

The system will also provide oversight and control of critical vessel systems ensuring efficient operation of the vessel and minimizing fuel consumption and wear and tear on the propulsion equipment. Kongsberg Maritime has supplied more than 2500 dynamic positioning systems worldwide.

Kongsberg Maritime is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kongsberg Group. It delivers products and systems for dynamic positioning, navigation and automation to merchant vessels and offshore installations. It also supplies products and systems for seabed surveying, surveillance, training simulators, and for fishing vessels and fisheries research.

The scope of work awarded to DRA Group involves detailed design of the vessel-mounted material processing facilities. With a design capacity of 400 tonnes per hour, the plant will include screening the seafloor massive sulphides into a number of size fractions, followed by dewatering using centrifuges and filter presses, eventually filtering to 8 microns.

The combined dewatered product will then be temporarily stored in the vessel’s hold, prior to trans-shipment via Handimax vessels to the processing partner in China. The remaining filtered water is returned via the enclosed riser system to drive the subsea lift pump and discharged within 50 metres of the seafloor from where it came.

The detailed design phase is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, following which the vessel-mounted modules will be fabricated and pre-commissioned onshore prior to integration onto the completed vessel. Fabrication of the process plant is expected to commence in early 2016 with first production from Solwara 1 scheduled for 2018.

Nautilus has been granted its environmental permit for the Solwara 1 site and aims to produce copper, gold and silver.

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