A Chinese firm has signed up as the first customer for a new undersea mine being developed off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the Canadian mining firm Nautilus Minerals said, reported Agence-France Press.
Nautilus said China's Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group has signed an agreement in which it will purchase 1.1 million tons of sulphides, a term that refers to rocks with high percentages of copper, gold, zinc and silver, said AFP.
The three-year contract will go into effect when the mine starts production in early 2013, according to the Jakarta Globe.
The mining giant claims that Solwara 1 is the world's first undersea mine and is located in a resource-rich area of the Bismarck Sea, said AFP.
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Tongling is the largest importer of copper in China, according to Radio Australia.
Sea mining is a relatively young industry, but The New York Times reported that due to the shrinking availability of copper mines on land, developers have been exploring other options.
The sulphides are extracted by way of undersea hydrothermal vents, said AFP. The Bismark Sea Manus basin, the site of the Solwara 1 project, is especially active due to mineral activity close to the crust's surface.
Papua New Guinea is hoping that a new $15-billion liquefied natural gas project targeting its two trillion cubic feet of gas -- the equivalent of 400 million barrels of oil -- in recently discovered gas reserves will help revitalize its struggling economy, according to report by Hydrocarbons Technology.