24 March 2017
Author: Greg Walters
The world's first deep-sea mining operation will kick off in early 2019 when a Canadian firm, Nautilus Minerals Inc., lowers a trio of massive remote-controlled mining robots to the floor of the Bismarck Sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea in pursuit of rich copper and gold reserves.
The machines, each the size of a small house, are equipped with rock-crushing teeth resembling the large incisors of a dinosaur. The robots will lumber across the ocean floor on mammoth treads, grinding and chewing the encrusted seabed, sending plumes of sediment into the surrounding waters and killing marine life that gets in their way. The smallest of the robots weighs 200 tons.
"A lot of people don't realize that there are more mineral resources on the seafloor than on land," said Michael Johnston, CEO of Nautilus, by phone from the company's field office in Brisbane, Australia. "Technology has allowed us to go there."
If Nautilus succeeds, an undersea gold rush could be at hand.