Canadian underwater mineral exploration company Nautilus Minerals has awarded a contract to the Brisbane office of the DRA Group (DRA) for detailed design of the Solwara 1 dewatering plant.

Nautilus Minerals CEO Mike Johnston said: "The project team has been working closely with DRA for several years on studies and early engineering.

"DRA has extensive experience with similar floating dewatering/mineral processing facilities in related offshore industries."

DRA regional director Donald Holley said: "It is pleasing for us to be able to apply DRA’s previous experience in designing vessel-mounted process plants to the Solwara 1 Project.

"This special experience has been gained from our offshore diamond recovery projects off the coast of south-west Africa.

"It includes overcoming the challenges in designing and operating process plants mounted on ships resulting particularly from the impact of the dynamic environment from wave movement, and the need for modular construction."

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Under the contract, DRA will provide detailed design of the vessel-mounted material processing facilities.

The plant will have a design capacity of 400t/h and will be used on the company’s production support vessel.

"The plant will have a design capacity of 400t/h and will be used on the company’s production support vessel."

It will include screening the seafloor massive sulphides into various size fractions, followed by dewatering using centrifuges and filter presses.

Before transshipment through Handimax vessels to the company’s Chinese processing partner, the combined dewatered product will be temporarily stored in the vessel’s hold.

Once the design phase completes in the fourth quarter of 2015, the vessel-mounted modules will be fabricated and pre-commissioned onshore before they are integrated onto the completed vessel.

According to Nautilus, fabrication of the process plant is expected to start in early 2016.

Initial production from the Solwara 1 project is scheduled for 2018, which will explore high-grade copper-gold resource.

Image: As part of the work, DRA will plan the detailed design of the vessel-mounted material processing facilities. Photo: courtesy of Nautilus Minerals Inc.