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Canada-based Nautilus Minerals has obtained an approval from the Papua New Guinea government to begin work on Solwara 1, the world’s first deep sea commercial mining venture.

Nautilus will mine for copper and gold off the coast of New Britain in Papua New Guinea using hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

The company has raised C$34m ($34.2m) from Anglo American, MB Holdings, Metalloinvest and existing Nautilus investors to develop its proprietary seafloor production system.

Local activists, environmentalists, fishermen and the PNG government had earlier raised opposition to Nautilus’ proposal.

However, the company assuaged those fears with claims that environmental impact from the deep sea mining will be lower when compared to surface mining.

The total capital cost to complete the seafloor production system, which will extract material from the seafloor and deliver that material to the deepwater port of Rabaul, is now estimated to be approximately $407m.

According to a 2007 drilling programme, the underwater mine has an indicated mineral resource of 1,030kt at 7.2% Cu, 5.0 g/t Au, 23 g/t Ag and 0.4 % Zn.

Image: Nautilus Minerals is set to mine for gold and copper on the seabed in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Nautilus Minerals