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Deep sea miners terminate pioneering project

Controversial deep-sea mining company Nautilus Minerals is “terminating the construction” of its flagship project off the coast of Papua New Guinea and laying off staff, it said today.

The company has been embroiled in a dispute with the PNG government over the ‘Solwara 1 Project’, which aimed to extract copper, gold and silver from around 1,600 metres under the sea. In a statement Nautilus said it was no longer willing to pay the full costs of developing this project while its dispute with the government continued. As well as stopping construction of its ‘seafloor production system’, 60 jobs at the company will be lost and any future production at the site will experience “considerable delay” says the company.

Nautilus has been hugely controversial since it appeared on the scene as one of the leading companies in the nascent area of deep sea mining. (See, for example, this opinion piece in Nature last year which argued that tougher regulations are needed to protect deep sea ecosystems from commercial mining.)

Mike Johnston, the Nautilus CEO, says that this is not the end though, insisting his company remains committed to “developing the world’s first commercial sea floor copper-gold project and launching the deep water sea floor resource production industry, whilst maintaining an environmentally and socially responsible approach”.

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