Nautilus Minerals has received the world’s first deep sea mining lease from the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) for the development of its Solwara 1 project in the Bismarck Sea.

The 20-year lease covers an area of approximately 59km2 surrounding Solwara 1, 50km north of Rabaul, where Nautilus intends to mine high-grade copper and gold deposits on the seafloor, at depths of approximately 1,600m.

The PNG government has retained an option to take up to a 30% stake in the project as a joint venture partner, according to the company.

If the option is exercised, the government will contribute funds to the project in proportion to its interest, including its share of the exploration and development costs.

Nautilus CEO Stephen Rogers said the successful development of Solwara 1 will pave the way for the expansion of operations to other seafloor deposits in the future, creating growth and further benefiting PNG.

The mining lease gives Nautilus the exclusive right to import and construct required equipment and to extract, process and sell minerals.