A London-listed company's plans to create the world's first underwater goldmine on the Pacific seabed have hit the rocks. Nautilus Minerals' problems come as China and Russia's duel for riches at the bottom of the ocean intensifies.
Nautilus was planning to mine gold, copper and silver under the Pacific Ocean but has run into conflict with its partner, the government of Papua New Guinea, about the cost of the project.
The company, part-owned by the Anglo American mining group, has put its Solwara 1 prospect on ice, laid off staff and postponed equipment orders, and is looking at taking its subsea mineral operations elsewhere.
State-owned Chinese and Japanese firms, meanwhile, have unveiled plans to search for cobalt-rich ferromanganese "crusts" in the western Pacific, and Russia has signed a 15-year contract to prospect for metallic sulphides in the Atlantic, where volcanic hot springs create mineral-rich rock formations.
Last month international lawyers met in Beijing to try to hammer out details of a seabed mining code to prevent conflict over deepwater resources.
Interest in this sector has been fed by the boom in commodity prices as well as soaring costs and environmental opposition to many large onshore mining projects.
There have been growing tensions over mineral and seabed rights, with China in dispute with the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries over areas of the South China Sea.