Canada-based underwater resource exploration company Nautilus Minerals has started wet testing of its new seafloor diamond drill rig, which has been developed to relieve the drilling requirements of its future exploration programmes.
The move comes after the rig, which is nicknamed the Hobbit, was subjected to a series of land-based trials, focused on rod handling, functional drilling, and landing stability tests.
To be carried out over a period of two weeks, the wet test programme will expand the testing parameters to include submerged operations and mechanical endurance.
Nautilus Minerals CEO Mike Johnston said: “According to our recently released preliminary economic assessment for Solwara 1, a single quarter’s production at steady state mining rates (around 3,200t/d) and at average Solwara deposit grades, adds around $110m in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA).
Solwara 1 is the company’s copper-gold project, which is under development in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea.
Johnston added: “Hence forward exploration is a pivotal part of our business. Our pioneering teams are overcoming traditional functional limitations and high fees in seafloor drilling, with our new ‘Hobbit’ scout rig.”
During the testing period, the company will assess the operational functionality of the drill rig’s control systems, landing capability, hydraulic functions, video survey systems, and drilling cycle time versus performance, in a submerged environment.
Additionally, the testing will evaluate the system’s ability to sustain simulated offshore operations at optimal productivity levels.
The company’s personnel will be trained on all aspects of the equipment and operations.
The rig is designed to offer improved landing and drill cycle capabilities, as well as simplified control systems and launch and recovery requirements, which will allow deployment from cheaper vessels.
Once the trials are completed, Nautilus will deploy the rig on its South Pacific tenements subject to securing additional funding.
The company is focused on commercial-scale exploration of the seafloor for massive sulphide systems, which could potentially contain high grade copper, gold, zinc and silver.