“The Great Treasure of the Bismarck Sea”

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, July 18, 2011

Nothing quite stirs the soul like the promise of undersea adventure and finding sunken pirate treasure — just ask Clive Cussler, who has so excited millions of readers with his stories of undersea adventure and treasure hunting that he doesn’t even have to write his own books anymore.

And that fact hasn’t escaped the investment newsletter copywriters — they know how to get the blood pressure rising:

“How a Tiny Exploration Company Just Unearthed 28 Million Ounces of Gold on the Ocean Floor…”

The intro to the ad even reads like the prologue of a Cussler novel:

“Chapter 1: A Shadowy Image

“The Captain of the Wave Mercury knew he was getting close…

“His electromagnetic scanners were pinging wildly – indicating massive amounts of gold somewhere nearby.

“For months, his robotic vehicles had combed a mountainous region 5,249 feet beneath the Bismarck Sea… Searching tirelessly for their target:

“A treasure of gold and silver so large, it’s worth more than the entire U.S. declared value of all the gold in Fort Knox.

“And then it happened…”

Provide your own drumroll in your head, please. All set? OK, so what the heck is being teased here?

Well, despite the fact that this is described as “the greatest treasure ever found,” dwarfing the well-publicized finds of Spanish Galleons and gold-laden ships, it is, of course, not a “treasure” in that sense at all — it’s an exploration project.

And apparently it’s super duper exciting:

“It’s already been appraised at $63.7 billion!

“But here’s the incredible part…

“The discovery is also potentially worth 164 times the value of the tiny exploration company that found it. And shares are likely to jump at an unprecedented rate from their current level of around $2.50.”

So those of you who’ve been around these parts for a while probably already know the name of the company and the full story — there aren’t, after all, terribly many deepsea miners out there. But just in case you want the full Gumshoe treatment, here’s a bit more of the tease from the ad:

“Chapter 2: The Hunt Is On

“It all started five years ago when a small Canadian company (I’ll call them “Treasure Corp.”) made a bold decision.

“They picked up shop in Toronto and traveled 8,600 miles to one of the least traveled places on Earth, Papua New Guinea.”

OK, I give up — you can listen to the video or read the presentation here if you like, it gives lots more tease-y details about this company and their “treasure” find, which they describe as “100 million tons of very special rocks called ‘massive seafloor sulfides.'” and “28.4 million ounces of gold and 528.8 million ounces of silver – all in less than one square mile.”

But I can’t keep up the pretense any longer, I’ll just have to tell you that yes, as you probably suspected, this must be … Nautilus Minerals (NUS in Toronto, NUSMF on the pink sheets).

And hell no, it didn’t “all start” five years ago — that would be pretty quick even for land-based mining. The primary resource that Nautilus is trying to exploit, the Solwara 1 field, was discovered in 1996, and Nautilus got a license to do commercial exploration in 1997. At which time they envisioned hundreds of millions of dollars of fabulous shiny metal (mostly copper, but lots of gold, too) flowing into their coffers “in the immediate future.” Fourteen years later …

Interestingly enough, this time the pitch for treasure is for an inexpensive newsletter — they want to get you to join the Oxford Club, which at $79 is far cheaper than the last service to tease this underwater treasure (that was Frank Curzio’s Phase 1 Investor, which will cost you at least $3,000 and which teased this as “underwater gold sands” about a year ago — click here for that article if you’d like more chatter about the company).

But of course, though folks have known that there are lots of mineral resources on and under the ocean floor … pulling them up from under a mile of water, and doing so economically, is another thing entirely. Which explains why Nautilus has had “two or three years” as their expected commercial production timeline for, well, many years. And that’s still the expectation today — there are massive volcanic sulfides all over the ocean floor, and they are similar to the kind of resources that have made for some huge discoveries of gold and copper (and other stuff) on land … volcanoes don’t care, after all, whether they’re under land or water.

And none of those resources underwater have really been tapped so far, unlike the land-based sulfide deposits — so there are probably lots of extraordinarily rich deposits out there. The Solwara 1 project, which is planned to be Nautilus’ first extraction project (they finally got the mining lease in January), is indeed very high grade compared to most land discoveries.

Nautilus is still saying that it will take about 2-1/2 years to start production once they have gotten “Project Sanction” — I don’t know exactly what that means, but apparently it’s more than just raising the money and getting the mining lease. They do have the lease, for 20 years, from Papua New Guinea, and they do have deals in place to procure most of the needed equipment, but most of the equipment has not yet been built. The key component, we’re told, is the production support vessel, which I guess will run the whole operation — Nautilus is developing a new industry, based largely on underwater oil exploration technology, but they have to develop new stuff, too, in conjunction with some engineering and shipbuilding partners. They will essentially use robotic undersea mining vehicles that will dig up the deposits, which from what I’ve read are right on the ocean floor, not a lot of waste rock to clear, then turn it into a seawater slurry that will be pumped up to the support vessel and offloaded to barges for dewatering and transport to port, where it will then go through the same kind of concentrator as land-based ore, and refining, and etc. They talk about developing a seaborne concentrator to lessen the need to ship raw rock to port, but that sounds like it’s still pretty far off, it’s not part of their initial mining plans.

So you can imagine how important it is that the resources really are super high quality — you have to pump it up a mile from the ocean floor and then barge the rock to port before it’s even concentrated, which will cost a lot of money. The company has estimates that ongoing production will cost $70 per ton, and my wild guess is that they’re almost certainly being cockeyed optimists. That’s true of pretty much any mining operation, of course, but when it’s an operation that entails trying something that has never been done before, mining copper and gold from a mile under the ocean’s surface, well, as I’ve said before, you don’t have to try hard to imagine all the things that might go wrong. That guess comes from pure skepticism, not from any personal expertise or knowledge about their specific project or engineering solutions.

The capital expenses are estimated to be something in the neighborhood of $300-400 million to get started, largely buying the production vessel and support equipment and the robot miners and undersea slurry pumps, though that has probably changed a bit as they’ve made joint venture deals with the Papua New Guinea government to buy in to the mining operation (they’ll own 30%) and with the shipbuilder to buy into and co-own the production support vessel. They have a lot of cash, and ,indeed, have been teased as cash-rich in the past, though that cash is all spoken for and more if they’re going to go through with development — Nautilus Minerals will undoubtedly have to raise more money, either by selling off joint venture shares to a big miner or by issuing new stock or borrowing money, and probably no sane bank would lend at reasonable terms just yet — they planned just recently to issue shares for this fundraising, but pulled back their recent attempt to raise $150 million because the market wasn’t amenable (ie, they must have gotten word that it would have crushed the share price).

I can’t think of anything else to say — every time I write about this one, and it does come up every year or two (it is, after all, a fabulous story — perfect for selling newsletters), they are slightly further along in terms of permitting, leases, finding new deposits to exploit after this first one, getting equipment deals, and placing orders … and yet, they still always seem to be saying they’re two or three years away from production. Eventually it will probably be true, but I don’t know if it is yet — the company is extremely individual investor-savvy, since they know their story is key to raising more money, so you’ll find plenty of investor presentations and details on their website here if you’d like to dig in for yourself.

Is it crazy to dig up the sea floor for copper and gold, or is this a great idea that has finally hit its stride? My guess is that they’ll eventually actually produce something, but that it will cost far more and take far longer than is now predicted … and therefore, none of us will have the patience to make any money from it even if the operation does eventually spawn a profitable new industry that looks for these deposits around the world. They’ve been thinking about how to mine this seabed for 15 years, and it still seems to me like its pretty early days yet. Let us know what you think with a comment below.


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43 Comments on "“The Great Treasure of the Bismarck Sea”"

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Paul K
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Paul K
July 18, 2011 3:36 pm

Thanks Gumshoe….searching for buried treasure always makes good copy!

Bob Meranti
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Bob Meranti
June 2, 2012 1:42 pm

I have been to the island and inspected the entire operation at my own expense and found this to be a very good investment with great returns, anyone not getting onboard now will only be disappointed later.

aoibhneas
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June 2, 2012 7:34 pm

A 40% drop on Friday does not look good.

Henry
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Henry
July 18, 2011 3:38 pm

We've all heard the joke about the definition of a gold mine: That being a hole in he ground with a lyer sitting beside it. Was wondering what one would call a gold, silver mine at the bottom of the Bismarck Sea? Think I'll pass on this one since I am past 80 years old.

austin
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austin
July 18, 2011 4:40 pm

Check out OMEX, they have started that stuff with Dorado Ocean Resources. I think I got the name right.

Jeffery
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Jeffery
July 18, 2011 4:58 pm

Had this figured out after the the first sentence. Took 50% profit and ran. After some major league digging found that there is large opposition group in the government for the final environmental permits. Figured it was a good time to bail. Not sure if they will ever get into any actual production or not. You have to admit it is a pretty cool concept. Keep up the good work Gumshoe.

Alfred
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Alfred
July 18, 2011 5:04 pm

Oxford Club–Yuk.
Count your toes and fingers and make sure your wallet stays in your pocket..

Scott
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Scott
July 19, 2011 7:12 am

After 15 years and nothing to show…..I'll pass. What are the salaries?

advantedges
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advantedges
July 19, 2011 12:53 pm

OK – lets say we are wanting to buy this gold stock…….How can we buy on the Toronto Exchange from the USA? The pink sheet option is for fools and those that do not understand the market…………but it is gold, right?

Philip Perlman
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Philip Perlman
July 19, 2011 1:31 pm

In addition if on land mining pollutes imagine how much worse pollution can we expect when extracting minerals from the ocean floor? Since most of the processing is unseen the degree of pollution from this undersea mining venture is probably unimaginable.

Leah
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Leah
July 19, 2011 8:56 pm

I would expect environmental issues, technological failures and cost anaylisis would likely kill this off before it got rolling, or rather sucking, fractured rock of high density up from the sea floor. In the 1980s most every geologist knew there were vast deposits of mineral wealth in and on the sea floor, but I still think it's not practical.

Walk Dont Run
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Walk Dont Run
July 20, 2011 11:40 am

Oxford Club and Phase 1 Investor are both part of Agora Publications, the investment letter & penny stock promoting machine. NUSMF, just as most of their "great finds" has been teased by several of Agora's newsletters. NUSMF hasn't gone anywhere since they began promoting itand, again like most of their penny stock promotions, I don't expect it to go anywhere. In the meantime, Bill Bonner, Addison Wiggin and the the rest of the Agora honchos are happy selling their subscriptions to a greedy public.

Ian Graham
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Ian Graham
July 20, 2011 1:00 pm

Nautilus may mine the Solwara 1 deepsea lease one day. The only way to do it profitably is to process at site – discharging highly toxic concentrate into the last pristine oceanic waters in the world. There is no study show where the toxic silt plumes will extend or for what period. The PNG government is too corrupt to care, their 2 man EPA equivalent underfunded and too pressured to complain.
My guess is that the smart money will stay with the miners that can use proven technology. Greenpeace will have a field day with this one.

John F.
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John F.
July 20, 2011 4:45 pm

They talk about developing a seaborne concentrator to lessen the need to ship raw rock to port.

Considering the location of the vents under some of the most pirate-infested waters in the world, this might not be advisable. If they manage to concentrate it to the point where you can load a few thousand dollars worth of the stuff into a speedboat, expect things to get lively.

Thomas Johnson
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Thomas Johnson
July 24, 2011 10:42 am

It is simply amazing that so many financial news letters are able to survive considering the amount of hype, exaggerations and outright lies that spew forth daily. The amount of money lost by subscribers falling for their crap is no doubt in the billions. Personally, I'd like to see all these hucksters go bankrupt and spend some time in jail for the damage they have caused.

DCW
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DCW
July 24, 2011 10:57 am

Just read this chain on a Sunday morning and thought "I remember that stock." I checked and did buy about two years ago ( about $10,000) and my holding is up 41% as of this morning. Not bad but not great.

I do read Agora stuff and in general have found the advice to be good.

Jack
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Jack
July 24, 2011 12:14 pm

Received a teaser from a different outfit a few days ago that included this stock. It was an easy one to solve and I do like the story with this company. It is thinly traded and will run up and down as newsletters tell and retell the details. Since I trade for income, money tied up waiting for "the big run" is dead money. We may pay more later but I plan to watch this one for a "real" breakout and jump on with a trailing stop. If the big run never happens,,,OH WELL,,,,we still need to earn an income.

Infinet
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Infinet
July 24, 2011 12:32 pm
Re.Nautilus Minerals ,I don't think the Oxford Club would stick their neck out recommending a no-hoper….The German Edition of the Oxford Club gives excellent advice to its members,especially re Gold/Silver Companies. I have taken in the info re. Nautilus, checked out the info on the Nautilus website , My gut feeling is: this could really become a success story. Have also registered for free News Alerts at the PNG Mine Watch, which will inform me of any Nautilus hitches, And I have bought a small amount of shares.They are doing well on all the German Stock Exchanges and within a… Read more »
gronk
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gronk
July 24, 2011 3:09 pm

Either one. He is probably neither digging nor working.

H.P.
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July 24, 2011 8:56 pm

Bought some Nautilus recently. I liked the story and the fact that three majors are majority shareholders. They don't like to throuw their money out the window. I also like the advances in Seabed retrieval equipment over the last year and that the local government not only gave them the only permits for mining the area, but also have a stake in the company.

We'll see…. .http://Retirefund.Blogspot.com

blackjack
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blackjack
August 5, 2011 10:56 pm

there is no doubt that PNG has plenty of gold copper silver etc

the problem is that PNG has stopped many mines dead in their tracks

one only has to look at BOGANVILLA COPPER – from memory i think RIO TINTO had something to do with it and you will see how easy it is to loose your money

the traditional land owners have the power – so be carefull

Lisa
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Lisa
August 14, 2011 4:27 pm

But the teaser says they know a way to get in without buying the pink stocks, or the canadian shares. Wat were they talking about?

bge11
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October 4, 2011 1:59 pm

The company is also listed on the UK AIM market (Ticker NUS). It was in a downtrending channel, and I made a quick 24% when it rebounded from the lower channel, selling near the top of the channel. At present, it seems to be on the way down to the lower channel again.

Jeff
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Jeff
August 25, 2011 2:01 pm

You have to buy a company called Teck Resources Limited (TCK) and it is at $40/ now. They bought about 7% of the company…I am not sure if it is the best option or not. I would rather buy NUS, but do not have access to TSX.

chris
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October 2, 2011 2:52 pm

There is an article called the Intel of NFC something to do with paying bills with a smart phone, any idea who they are and what the real “skinny” is?

mangi lo ples
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mangi lo ples
October 4, 2011 12:18 pm
Another project in Papua New Guinea. I live on the Bismarck Sea. However local land owners are concern that their only means of survival which is the fish will disappear or poisoned. That is a start to Land owner power to the on going operation of the mine in future like you have experienced in many project in Papua New Guinea. Otherwise it is a good project once again taken from us and make somebody richer rather than the living standard of the landowners living around the mine. Classic example is one of the worlds biggest gold mine in the… Read more »
Mr. Demas
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November 17, 2011 5:45 am

You can buy shares thru Low Trade. The stock is considered Foreign, so you have to pay a Non-DTC-Eligible fee of around $70 each buy. As far as I know. I know Zecco will not let you buy foreign. I talked with Low Trades. An account is being funded. Before I found out about this dream. Aye Me Buckle !!

Henry K.
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January 27, 2012 7:57 pm
I am aware of this company, Nautilus Minerals since 2005 when the shares were in the pennies.. During the past 5 years, the company spent $215 millions (loss) and they just got an agreement? and no 43-101, no feasibility study? During the 9 month 2011, they lost another $20 million with administrative cost of $5.3 millions during the Q3. 2011. What are they doing Throwing money into the sea? It looks like it will be another 5 years AND $250 millions before any result, if any. The technique of recovering the gold, they already explained that 5 – 6 years… Read more »
wayne
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wayne
January 27, 2012 10:48 pm

With all the interstate in underwater mining, check out–” methane hydrate found off south Carolina”. A patch the size of Rhode island and has the equivalent of 70 years worth of natural. gas used by entire US. Its just sitting there on the ocean floor. Fair tease- why do you think Russia annexed the north pole a few years ago? And what did BP drill through that exploded?

John
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John
February 1, 2012 9:22 pm

Your information is out of date.

>>> During the past 5 years, the company spent $215 millions (loss)
>>> and they just got an agreement?”
They didn’t just get the agreement, the PNG gov’t took up their option in March of 2011. And then in April, they signed an agreement for the mining vessel.
>>> and no 43-101, no feasibility study?
The 43-101 was most recently updated in November 2011.
BTW, somewhere in there, they managed to pull off a $100MM private placement which brought their cash up to $200MM.

Dan
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Dan
January 27, 2012 9:41 pm

Get’s no play, but the Sudanese and Saudis have agreed to develop the Atlantis II Deeps by 2014. The Sudanese are taking advantage of ramping up mining. I guess that makes them somehow smarter than Americans. Resources stave off recession. Diamond Fields Int’l currently is in Atlantis II. I bet given the nature if these two nations, it comes to pass.

Rik
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Rik
January 27, 2012 10:11 pm
The technology for this is developed and in production for oil and can be adapted to “mud mining” such as is needed here. The sea bed is different in different locales, so this may be “poison”, but that is highly unlikely. What is likely is that a plume of muddy water will be created that will float downwards and eventually disperse across a very substantial area after being carried from the mining site by naturally occuring currents. Locals may be affected if those currents are onshore or alongshore and that can perhaps bring a halt to things. Looks like a… Read more »
Glenn Robinson
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Glenn Robinson
January 29, 2012 10:19 pm
I worked at an open pit sulfide converting gold mine in the ’90s. Thought you’d like some technical input. Our ore was up to 0.3 ounce/ton, considered rich for the area. Production costs then were $200/ounce, which would be $60/ton. Considering inflation and ocean mining challenges, I agree that NUS is optimistic. The gold/silver ratio is about right for sulfide ore. I didn’t see a gold concentration in your coverage; considering that we were mining an old seabed, I doubt you will see much more than we had. Don’t worry about piracy – even concentrated ore is still just dirt.… Read more »
Gary E. Shearer
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January 30, 2012 12:10 pm
I mined for 10 years, and am familiar with volcanic sulfide mineral extraction. Cripple Creek, colorado is the only volcanic area in the state of Colorado, and cyanide leaching was the most efficient way to extract the gold from the surrounding rock. So, say goodbye to the pristine waters of Papua, New Guinea and hello to the toxic waste dump that areas that used this process have become. The environmental folks won’t even let investors open new cyanide leach pads to process waste dumps from mines active in the 40’s and 50’s where gold and silver were approx the same… Read more »
Mike
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Mike
April 18, 2012 4:41 pm
This idea of mining deepsea is old, and got lost between the late 80’s up to 2005. Before the 80’s was the crazy period of the polymetallic Nodules. However, a lot of things are different today: The Oil and Gas industry has developped the necessaries technologies to that deep. Nautilus design is using the best knowledge of Oil and Gas Deepsea Industry for Architecture (Technip), Pumping (GE Hydril who revamped the Chevron Drilling Pump for this subsea mining application) and mining tools & work class ROV (SMD). Also the ISA came in the game in order to make every legal… Read more »
GARY BECRAFT
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GARY BECRAFT
September 26, 2015 8:39 am

Could you check up on NUSMF again and report. Seems that they have all of their underwater equip built and paid for, are having a purpose built ship made, have gotten PNNG to ante up the first 15% (120 mil) and are about 2.5 years from production still.??? I think they might pull this off.??

mikeb
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mikeb
July 19, 2011 3:03 pm

could you tell us new and not so in the loop folks why buying pink sheet is much worse than the actual stock?

Dave K.
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Dave K.
July 24, 2011 6:48 pm

The float is usually thin and the spreads are therefore larger, so your cost of investing is typically higher. On the other hand, the commission to buy Canadian stocks direct are typically higher, even at discount brokers, so it may be six of one, half dozen of the other. The pink sheet shares are legitimate, but for both you have to be careful of pump-and-dump artists.

1066andAllThat
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1066andAllThat
August 14, 2011 2:25 pm

Don't be greedy! Buy shares in a gold mining company with an established production line. Sit back and enjoy the cash dividends.

oldfatfella
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oldfatfella
January 28, 2012 2:42 am

I probably got this pick (NUSMF.PK) from Oxford. Bought 1,000 tickets @ 1.90 mid ’10 and sold 600 @ 3.22 in 2/11. Net is 400 left at current prices for 0 cost. Just sitting in my Roth and will be until it goes up to ?/ down to 0/I get desperate or dead. It may eventually pan out (pun intended). One can only hope.

aoibhneas
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aoibhneas
April 18, 2012 6:36 pm

Float may not be actually thin. Take the case of pump and dump darling pile of kaka SNPK. Traded 80 million shares today and lost 58%. Pumpsanddumps.com has nice analysis of it. Essentially a worthless company with $1 billion market cap recently. They also point out recently that the much-hyped gold OREO is by the same promoters of the awful offal gold Lonestar.

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