MAC: Mines and Communities

Nautilus re-emerges, battered and impotent

Published by MAC on 2019-08-13

The essentially bankrupt deepsea mining company Nautilus is - in a manner of speaking - all at sea.

But this isn't preventing  attempts to keep it afloat. For previous posting see: New report damns deep-sea mining 


Nautilus emerges, barely alive and impotent: just can’t get that deep sea mining project up

Deep Sea Mining Campaign

13 August 20019

In a court appointed meeting today in Canada the creditors of Nautilus Minerals voted to effectively liquidate the company. The two main shareholders – MB Holding and Metalloinvest – have taken control of a very much shrunken Nautilus at the expense of major creditors and hundreds of hopeful small shareholders.

Nautilus, which has been seeking to start the Solwara 1 mine off the coast of Papua New Guinea, filed for court protection from its creditors under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in February 2019.[i] With its court-appointed monitors, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Nautilus has given up trying to find possible buyers of its assets.[ii]

Andy Whitmore of the Deep Sea Mining Campaign said, “This is effectively a ‘smash and grab’ raid by the two main shareholders. But the company is essentially worthless. Its equipment is tailored to the mining of deep sea hydrothermal vents which the world now agrees are too ecologically valuable to mine. Even other DSM companies such as DeepGreen suggest mining hydrothermal vents creates an unacceptably high level of environmental impact..”[iii]

In addition to this, Nautilus still faces an ever-widening community opposition over its Solwara 1 mine.[iv]

Jonathan Mesulam of the Alliance of Solwara Warriors stated, “We rejoiced when the company filed for protection from creditors in Canada. Our opposition and our court action have helped push it to that point. Communities across Papua New Guinean (PNG) want to see the nightmare of deep sea mining removed from PNG waters. We will re-double our efforts to ensure that the new Nautilus will never operate at Solwara 1.”

Andy Whitmore continued, “Under the deal minor creditors will be fully repaid, while major ones will get 10% of what they are owed. The biggest loser is the PNG Government which held 15% equity in Nautilus PNG and the Solwara 1 project. It has been left stranded with a debt equivalent to one third of its annual health budget for country of 9 million people.” [v]

“The main shareholders through Deep Sea Mining Finance (DSMF) – the vehicle lending money to Nautilus – have swapped those debts for ownership of the company. While a cheap purchase, they end up owning very little. Nautilus is a company with still no capital or support vessel to realise its deep sea mining ambitions. Also, because Nautilus was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange as part of the insolvency proceedings, the new Nautilus will now be a private company, and not open to the same level of scrutiny.”

The PNG Government through its company Eda Kopa applied to the Canadian Court unsuccessfully to regain some of its failed investment.[vi] Smaller shareholders are considering a class action against the new company.[vii]

For more information

Andy Whitmore, Deep Sea Mining Campaign (London)
whit[at]gn.apc.org, +44 775 439 5597

Jonathan Mesulam, Alliance of Solwara Warriors, (Papua New Guinea)
mesulamjonathan[at]gmail.com, +675 70038933

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[i] Nautilus Minerals, Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), PwC, https://www.pwc.com/ca/nautilus-minerals

[ii] Monitors Third Report to Court, Nautilus Minerals, Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), PwC, https://www.pwc.com/ca/en/car/nautilus-minerals/assets/nautilus-minerals-049_072419.pdf

[iii] DeepGreen has explicitly focused on mining polymetallic nodules, contrasting this against high impact mining of hydrothermal vents– see for instance https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/deep-sea-mining-environment; https://deep.green/news-detail/deepgreen-ceo-outlines-future-of-deep-ocean-metals/; and http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Why-the-Rush.pdf

[iv] ‘Joint Letter calling for the PNG Government to cancel all Nautilus Minerals deep sea mining licences’, full page ad, Post Courier by PNG Council of Churches, Voice of Milne Bay, Alliance of solwara Warriors, Bismarck Ramu Group and Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, 28 June 2019, http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/joint-letter-calling-for-the-papua-new-guineagovernment-to-cancel-all-nautilus-minerals-deep-sea-mining-licences-and-to-ban-seabed-mining-in-png/ ; ‘Cancel all deep sea mining licences’, Loop PNG, April 24, 2019. http://www.looppng.com/business/cancel-all-deep-sea-mining-licences-locals-83822

[v] Deep Sea Mining Campaign, London Mining Network, Mining Watch Canada. 2019. Why the Rush? SeabedMining in the Pacific Ocean. July. pp 26. http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/wp-content/uploads/Why-the-Rush.pdf; Table 29 of the PNG Treasury Final budget outcome released in March 2019 indicates expenditure by sector – the debt of $US125m alone, ignoring interest and other costs. equates to K422m at March 2019 exchange rates. http://bit.ly/FinalBudgetOutcome2018

[vi] ‘Kumul Minerals Files Claim For Solwara Project’, Post Courier, July 17 2019, https://postcourier.com.pg/kumul-minerals-files-claim-solwara-project/

[vii] See Shareholders Unite bulletin board: http://shareholdersunite.com/mybb/showthread.php?tid=12465

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