Despite the fact a proposal for the world’s first seabed mining operation has been evolving for more than three years, the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, has left it until now to demand an Australian Senate inquiry into the impact of undersea mining.
Senator Brown has returned from Papua New Guinea and told ABC News he would push for an inquiry into mining of the Solwara-1 high grade gold-copper and zinc marine nodules.
This is a joint venture between Nautilus Minerals Inc (TSX & AIM: NUS) and the Papua New Guinea Government, which has taken up a 30% equity.
Solwara-1 is in PNG waters in the Bismarck Sea.
Senator Brown said he was worried that if the technology succeeds, it could be used in every ocean in the world.
Nautilus is a company that developed with strong Australasian influence and the company holds seafloor licence applications in New Zealand waters.
Brown also said he was concerned about the impact of the Ramu Nickel mine in Madang dumping its contaminated mine waste into the sea.
The mine is majority owned by the Chinese government and the Australian-based firm Highlands Pacific is a junior partner.
Next month PNG's National Court will make a final decision whether to grant landowners a permanent injunction to stop the dumping. For years the Lihir gold project in PNG has dumped its mullock in deepwater near Lihir Island and its various owners have claimed there was no adverse impact on marine life.
Meanwhile Nautilus Minerals said late last week it was taking another step forward in construction of its seafloor production system, proceeding with an order for the Subsea Slurry Lift Pump (SSLP).
The SSLP will pump high grade slurry from the bottom of the riser, at Nautilus' Solwara-1 project to a Production Support Vessel (PSV) floating about 1,600 metres above.
It is a key piece of equipment in Nautilus' plan to produce commercial quantities of copper, gold and other metals from the deep ocean.
The contract for the SSLP was first awarded to GE Oil & Gas in June 2008, but was suspended later that year due to the global financial crisis.
With the improvement in economic conditions, and recent major advances in the Solwara 1 project, Nautilus has reinstated the contract.