PNG Environment

The world's first seafloor copper-gold project, Solwara 1, is under development in Papua New Guinea. Nautilus Minerals was granted the Mining Lease for Solwara 1 in January 2011 and the Environmental Permit for Solwara 1 in December 2009. Nautilus Minerals Nautilus Minerals is committed to understanding, managing, and where appropriate, minimising the environmental impact of our activities. We aim to manage long-term ecosystem health and function in the natural environments affected by our operations.

Solwara 1 is located in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea in New Ireland Province, at 1,600 metres water depths and approximately 30 kilometres from the nearest coast in New Ireland Province. The map on the right shows that Solwara 1 is located 50 kilometres from the international Port of Rabaul in East New Britain and 700 kilometres from Madang.

Solwara 1 Key Points

Solwara 1 is located 30 kilometres from land, at depths of 1600 metres, which is well away from coral reefs and fish. Surface impacts have been engineered out, meaning there will be no discharges to the surface with the exception of vessel discharges (cooling water and sewage) which will be controlled to international (MARPOL) standards.

  • The Solwara 1 mine area is approximately 0.1 km2 in size.
  • The natural environment at Solwara 1 is very dynamic, due to volcanic influences.
  • There is a large active volcano (North Su) >1km from the mine site, which has been shown to have been active for >*22 years, and which deposits large volumes of volcaniclastic material into the regional water column (Independent research** estimates 14 million m3 of material was deposited on the side of the volcano alone in the 5 years from 2008 to 2013 – more than twice the entire Solwara 1 mineralised material). Estimates for the extensive existing ash cloud are pending evaluation, but initial work suggests the volume of the naturally existing plume is also very significant.
  • The North Su plume has a significant impact on background water quality. In 2015 environmental studies will attempt to quantify this impact and understand the variability in the background water quality.
  • Vent chimneys naturally turn on and off due to changes in volcanic activity. When a vent becomes active after a period of inactivity, chimneys reform rapidly and the vent communities recolonise.
  • Mining does not stop the venting as the source of the hydrothermal fluids lies well below the extent of the mining zone.
  • Evidence from independent studies indicates that the biology is resilient to disturbance, and adapts to recover.
  • Animal communities are adapted to, and highly tolerant of, variability.

*Since first plume detection took place on June 19, 1993. Plume first detected on PACMANUS II cruise, by CSIRO

** University Bremen/MARUM, Bremen, Germany and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Our commitments to protect surface waters and fish:

  • Enclosed pipe and pump system
  • No hazardous chemicals
  • No tailings and no blasting at the mine site
  • Biodegradable fluids/oils to be used in all subsea equipment
  • No extraction impact shallower than 1300 metre water depth