Nautilus Minerals have entered into a collaborative agreement with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to undertake joint exploration and scientific research within the company’s exploration leases in the Bismarck Sea in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea. The 42-day cruise to investigate both active and extinct sulphide deposits, using Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s research vessel Melville, will commence on July 21 and deploy the WHOI deep submergence laboratory remote operated vehicle (ROV) Jason and the Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE). This combination will provide for an integrated seafloor mapping and sampling programme gathering samples using Jason along with high resolution mapping and imaging using ABE.
The initial 10 days of the cruise will be focused on mapping and sampling mineralised areas discovered on previous marine scientific cruises on the Solwara 2 prospect. The following 32-day programme will involve further mapping, rock and fluid sampling of known seafloor hydrothermal systems as well as hydrothermal plume sampling aimed at identifying further mineralized systems. This work expects to delineate the size and surface grades of further mineralized systems, as well as significantly advance the scientific understanding of these systems, by delineating the tectonic and structural controls on and constrain the geochemical processes responsible for the formation of these systems. Nautilus CEO David Heydon comments that "this is an excellent example of collaboration between scientific organizations, industry and government aimed at promoting our understanding of the seafloor and the mineralized systems that form on it. From this work we expect to better understand the nature of, distribution, size, grade and manner of formation of seafloor massive sulphide deposits and to use this information to promote the discovery and evaluation of these systems within our leases and elsewhere".
Further news is that Barrick Gold has entered into an agreement with Nautilus Minerals to convert its interest in the Papua New Guinea (Solwara) joint venture into a 9.59% stake in the company. The Solwara joint venture comprises exploration licenses in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea covering 17,500 km² and an exploration agreement covering 17 countries throughout the West Pacific. It is focused on the assessment of gold-copper-zinc-silver massive sulphide mineralization on the seafloor. A total of 88 sea floor sulphide samples collected by Placer Dome Oceania in the 2005 and 2006 field programmes over Solwara 1 were calculated by Nautilus to average 15.5 g/t gold and 10.8% copper. President and CEO David Heydon says that "This agreement with Barrick transfers all of Placer Dome’s expertise, intellectual property, know-how, key consultants and relevant business relationships to Nautilus, allowing Nautilus to manage and operate the project and determine the development time line and scale that maximizes value to Nautilus shareholders. Importantly, it also gives Nautilus a 100% interest in any future gold production from the project. Nautilus is now well positioned to expedite the work on the project using the proceeds from its $25 million financing that closed in May, 2006." Alex Davidson, Barrick’s Executive Vice President of Exploration and Corporate Development, said "We are pleased to have a significant equity stake in Nautilus so that we can participate in the future upside of this project." Under the agreement, affiliates of Barrick will transfer all their right, title and interest in the exploration data, engineering data, software and equipment, including a trial seafloor cutting machine and an airlift riser test rig, to Nautilus. Barrick will release all contractors, consultants and relevant staff so they can work with Nautilus directly. As announced on May 15, 2006, Nautilus has already employed three ex Placer Dome managers which will facilitate a smooth transition of the project. www.nautilusminerals.com