The World's First Undersea Mine Is Opening Off The Coast Of Papua New Guinea

underwater world

Photo: chiaralily | Flickr

In today’s awesome news from the future, the world’s first commercial sea-floor mine has landed its first customer, according to AFP, and production will begin in early 2013.The mine, named “Solwara 1” and located at the bottom of the Bismarck Sea, is owned by Canadian mining company Nautilus Minerals, who will sell 1.1 million tonnes of sulphides per year to a Chinese metals firm.

Nautilus CEO Stephen Rogers commented, “This relationship with China’s largest importer of copper concentrates provides further evidence that there is considerable interest in high grade massive sulphides being found by the emerging seafloor resource production industry.”

“Sulphides” is a term for rocks containing a high percentage of copper, gold, zinc and silver. Nautilus believes that eventually, up to one-third of the world’s minerals could be mined from the sea-floor. That is a somewhat staggering, if overly optimistic, estimate.

From the AFP report:

Located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of New Britain’s port city of Rabaul, Solwara 1 is a deposit of what is known as “sea-floor massive sulphides” — rocks containing high grades of copper, gold, zinc and silver.

The deposits form at hydrothermal vents, which spew the minerals from fissures in the Earth’s crust, and the Manus basin is a lucrative site because there are active seams at relatively shallow depths.

Remote-controlled robots will drill for sulphide deposits on the rocky ocean bed 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) below sea level and a separate “collection” machine will pump the material to a support vessel at the surface.

Now that sounds really cool.

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