RESEARCH commissioned by Nautilus Minerals says the company’s proposed offshore Solwara 1 copper gold project has the potential to reduce the social and environment impacts associated with large surface terrestrial copper mines.

The independent environmental and social benchmarking analysis, put together by Earth Economics, was released on 31 May.

The report compares the social and environmental impacts of Solwara 1 with three terrestrial mines; Bingham Canyon (USA), Prominent Hill (Australia) and Intag (a proposed mine in Ecuador).

Key findings outlined in the report were the urgent need to meet copper demand while reducing fresh water use and contamination, damaging impacts to communities, mine footprints and CO2 emissions.

The report said seafloor mining could produce more copper with fewer natural capital inputs, fewer damaging outputs and a smaller area of impact than terrestrial mines.

When compared to the terrestrial mines in the report, Nautilus said the Solwara 1 project had a reduced environmental and social impact and fewer short and long-term risks.

Monetary damages resulting from terrestrial mines are also estimated to be significantly more than that of the proposed Solwara 1 project, according to the Earth Economics report.

Nautilus chief executive Mike Johnston said industry must look at more sustainable ways to meet growing demand for copper.

“Seafloor mining has the potential to not only provide economic benefits within the communities nearest to the operations, while minimising the impact of copper mining, it also has the potential to change the physical nature of the mining industry for the better,” he said.

Solwara 1 is expected to be the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine project.

Located in the Bismarck Sea of PNG, it is expected to start operations in the first half of 2018, subject to project financing and completion of the company’s seafloor production equipment and vessel.