Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gold From the Bottom of the Ocean

Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX)announced that they will be buying a 9.59 % stake in Nautilus Minerals (NUS.V)and transferring all of their engineering and subsea geology know-how from their Placer Dome Oceania subsidiary to Nautilus.

Nautilus and Barrick have been engaged in test mining of the seafloor near Papua New Guinea with promising results for the future of gold and copper mining.
The area is near the Pacific’s “Rim of Fire” where cracks in the surface of the Earth eject superheated streams of water. When the hot mineral laden fluid meets the cold ocean water metal sulphides precipitate out and fall to the bottom to form layers of rich deposits.

What does this have to do with robots?
The Solwara Project is testing deposits in 1600 meters (5250 feet) of water. Who do you think will be doing all the work at that depth?

Nautilus has formed a team of technology partners to use existing technology from offshore oil and gas production to create large-scale mineral mining operations. Their hope is to mine 400 tonnes per hour to get 2 million tonnes of ore per year at the surface.

Their current test rig robot chews up the rock and holds it in a chamber to carry it back to the surface.

If the industry takes off like many investors are expecting, then it will create a completely new industry of offshore mining and subsea robots. The scale of the operations necessary to make such risky ventures profitable will require fleets of very large mining robots. Although the technology is all proven feasible, there will need to be a lot of creative engineering to get this to work.

Nautilus President D. Heydon inspects drum cutter coal miner

Nautilus Minerals Inc. - News Releases - Barrick Converts Joint Venture Interest to Equity Interest in Nautilus - Tue Jul 11, 2006


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