Nautilus Minerals has finally admitted it will use Solwara 1 as the test site for an expensive and potentially destructive experiment in which the potential victims are the rich marine environment of the Bismarck sea and the indigenous communities living along its coastline.
In its 2015 Annual Information Form [pdf 1.2MB], submitted to Canadian regulators in March and available on the company website, Nautilus says it does not know if its plans for seabed mining are financially or technically feasible or what the environmental and social impacts will be.
There are ‘significant risks’ says the company and it can give ‘no assurance’, but rather than conducting further studies, it is pressing ahead with Solwara 1 to try and “demonstrate that seafloor resource development is commercially viable and environmentally sustainable”. (p24)
Nautilus warns ‘there is significant risk with this approach and no assurance can be given that the system will successfully demonstrate commercial viability’ .(p52)
- It is going ahead with the mine despite ’not having completed and not intending to complete any preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study or feasibility study’ (p52)
- It does not know if its technology will work in the sub-sea conditions or if it will work with the materials to be mined or even if the different technologies will work together in a single application (p52)
- “Performance, availability, reliability, maintenance, wear and life of equipment are unknown” (p54)
- Its approach is ‘to first test the operational viability of the whole production system at Solwara 1 in order to demonstrate if these technologies can cut and recover the minerals’ (p52)
Amazingly, even if the mining equipment does actually work, Nautilus still doesn’t know if there are any commercial quantities of minerals to be recovered. In the Information Form, Nautilus admits it has not even drilled the seabed, the resource ’has only essentially been surface sampled’. Without proper testing by drilling, the published results “should be considered of low [sic] confidence” (p46).
Perhaps even more damning, Nautilus admits it does not know what the actual impacts of the mining operations will be on the environment (p61).
Given these startling and damning admissions, will the Papua New Guinea authorities now step in and stop this giant experiment with people’s lives, livelihoods, culture and environment?