NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Nautilus Minerals (NUSMF) is borrowing a page from the oil and gas industry's playbook and looking to expand into deep sea mining for minerals like copper.

Nautilus Minerals is hoping to become the first deep sea mining company, using technology that is similar to that employed by the energy industry. Minerals from the seafloor are of much higher grade than they are on land, said Chief Executive Officer Mike Johnston.

"The high grades make it a very competitive operation, in terms of cost," Johnston said. "The grade for copper is 10 times what it is on average on land, so it's the grade that makes the whole thing work. It allows you to have a tight, very compact footprint from an environmental point of view. That's great, because we have lower CO2 emissions and we have almost no waste."

Johnston said copper would be shipped directly to China, where demand is high. China is the largest consumer of copper in the world, accounting for about 40% of all consumption, and Chinese companies are actively searching for more, he said. Johnston added that he's not worried about any potential economic slowdown in China and that the company currently has a contract with China's largest copper producer.

Nautilus' mine is scheduled to be up and running in the first quarter of 2018. The company is building the mining vessel in China, and it will then be brought to Papua New Guinea, where the mining will take place.

The company, with operations based in Australia and stock trading on the Toronto Exchange, is not yet profitable but expects it will be once production begins in 2018. In the 2014 annual report, Johnston said that Nautilus Minerals has the potential to change mining forever and that it's "reasonable to expect that about a third of our key metals and minerals will be extracted offshore."

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