By Reuben Adams

THE arrival of three seafloor production tools (SPTs) at Duqm Port in Oman for extensive wet testing represents a major milestone for Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 project.

The SPTs will cut and extract high grade copper and gold from the seafloor at the Solwara 1 project site in the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea, with production to start in the first quarter of 2018.

The SPTs were designed and assembled in Newcastle upon Tyne by UK company Soil Machine Dynamics, which was awarded the contract for the world-first deep sea mining vehicles in 2007.

The SPTs and associated equipment weigh more than 1000t.

The wet testing would examine control systems operations and feedback; hydraulic functions; collection system functions; and survey and visualisation systems.

The testing program would be undertaken by the Solwara 1 Joint Venture production team and representatives of Soil Machine Dynamics, with further logistics and engineering support from United Engineering Services.

The preparatory works for the program would start in April with initial testing operations scheduled to occur shortly thereafter.

The Solwara 1 Joint Venture comprises Nautilus (85 per cent) and Petromin Holdings PNG subsidiary Eda Kopa (Solwara) Limited (15 per cent).