The following is the text of a press release issued by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.:
(TAMPA, Fla.) — Odyssey Marine
Exploration, Inc. (Nasdaq:OMEX), a pioneer in the field of deep-ocean
exploration, reported that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
for proposed dredging and recovery of phosphate sands from the "Don
Diego" deposit has been filed with the Mexican Secretary of Environment
and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). According to governmental
regulations, a response is expected in approximately 60 business days.
Experts in marine dredging, plume modeling, sound propagation,
ecotoxicology, phosphate research and engineering all contributed to
the extensive environmental studies and scientific findings that were
incorporated in the EIA.
The unique attributes of the "Don Diego" deposit, particularly its
size, quality and location, make it an important strategic resource and
place it among the top-tier of new world phosphate deposits. As
recently announced, the Mexican government awarded two additional
concession areas that increase the size and value of the "Don Diego"
Phosphate is a key and irreplaceable component of fertilizer. Mexico
imported 83% of the fertilizer it used in 2013 and still only six
million hectares of the 23 million hectares available for food crops
are currently fertilized regularly in Mexico. Nearly 40% of the food
consumed in the country is imported.
A stated key focus for Mexico's President Nieto is his national crusade
against hunger (SinHambre), and central to this initiative is for
Mexico to identify and secure lower cost sources of fertilizer. This
new source of phosphate can be crucial to increased food production in
the country and could turn Mexico into a phosphate exporter.
Given the project's importance to Mexico and all of North America,
significant time and effort was invested in review of the EIA by
additional scientific experts, environmental groups, local fishing
groups, community leaders and potential strategic partners prior to
submission to SEMARNAT. The 4,600 page EIA includes annexes that
present extensive analyses, tests, reports and models from outside
experts and environmental scientists on the proposed program to extract
the phosphate sands. It is expected that the full EIA submission will
be available on the SEMARNAT website in the coming days. A
non-technical summary of the EIA is available now on
"The 'Don Diego' project team has produced an extraordinary amount of
high-quality work leading to this very thorough environmental
assessment," said Mark Gordon, Odyssey's president and chief operating
officer. "Offshore operations began with environmental and resource
sampling and data collection conducted by Odyssey, which then continued
with independent land-based laboratory testing and scientific analyses.
This work has confirmed that the 'Don Diego' phosphate deposit is a
strategically and economically significant resource, and its
development will have minimal environmental impact while creating an
overwhelmingly positive social and economic benefit for Mexico."
"The extensive pre-submission review by various stakeholders has
extended the development timeline," continued Gordon. "However, the
investment of additional time and resources better positions the
project for success, and we are looking forward to moving another step
closer to beginning mineral extraction operations."
While the "Don Diego" concession area stretches to the shoreline, the
proposed dredging area covers a significantly smaller region in waters
70-90 meters deep and centered about 40 kilometers offshore. The high
phosphate band is located in the Mexican Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),
but outside of territorial waters, and the proposed dredging plan
covers less than 1% of the current concession area per year. The
proposed project area is a distinct deposit that features very high
The submitted EIA includes the following information:
— The project area features a low level of sea life and biodiversity. The
area where the proposed dredging will take place is known locally to the
fishermen as "Los Lodazales" or "mud pits" because the phosphate-rich
material is relatively inhospitable to benthic fauna and therefore is not
an area frequented by local fishermen seeking bottom fish.
— The proposed extraction methodology uses standard Trailer Suction Hopper
Dredging (TSHD), a method that has been used worldwide for decades for
maintenance dredging, reclamation works and dredging marine aggregates
for use in construction. The impacts of TSHDs have been extensively
studied in European waters and elsewhere. The project's dredging partner
has conducted over 200 dredging projects in Mexican waters over the past
— During the extraction process and offshore processing, no chemicals are
introduced into the ocean. Phosphate is extracted by mechanical means and
only shells, oversized materials and fine sediment are returned to the
seabed in a manner that creates structure, which studies have shown to
enhance local fish populations.
— Plume modeling indicates that minor increases in suspended solids from
dredging operations will occur over a distance of less than four
kilometers from operations even during high-energy events such as storms.
In addition, this project plans to use a "green valve" system that
results in the plume being carried below the depths at which the majority
of phytoplankton production occurs.
— Extensive toxicity testing was conducted to determine the impact of any
suspended solids from the activities on marine organisms. These tests
showed that there was no evidence of damaging impact on any of the test
— Testing indicated that water quality from the extraction process
discharge met Californian and Mexican standards for water quality for all
measurable trace minerals.
— Sound propagation modeling studies indicates that the dredging activities
are expected to produce sound frequencies and decibel levels comparable
to other similarly sized vessels that are commonly in transit off the
west coast of Baja California Sur. This would have no more effect on
cetaceans than smaller vessels, including those used for whale watching.
The results show that sound levels in all cases are well below those
known to cause damage to marine life.
— The dredging area is not in migration paths for either blue whales that
migrate further offshore or humpback whales that migrate much closer to
shore than the deposit. The project area is also a considerable distance
from whale calving areas in Bahia Magdalena and Lagoon San Ignacio, and
will have no effect on whales or other sea life in those areas.
— Turtle impact is expected to be minimal, as turtles do not typically
frequent the waters in the depth and area of the proposed dredging as
there is minimal food available in this "mud pit" area. Nonetheless,
mitigation measures, including tickler chains and deflectors, that have
had excellent success rates in other areas are proposed in order to
ensure that if any turtles are in the area they will not be entrapped or
harmed by the operation.
Dr. Richard Newell, a leading environmental consultant, was involved in
the provision of independent scientific advice for this project. He
possesses extensive experience with studies on the environmental impact
and management of dredging by Trailer Suction Hopper Dredgers (TSHD)
for the marine aggregates sector in the UK. Between 2002 and 2011, he
was the marine science coordinator for a $50 million research program
funded through the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) known as the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund
According to Newell, "The knowledge we derived from the results of work
funded through the ALSF has been brought to bear on the 'Don Diego'
TSHD project, and leading independent expertise from the UK dredging
industry has played a central role in the assessment of potential
impacts. I am satisfied that this work and the interpretation of the
data meets the high international standards that are expected for a
project of this significance."
Phosphate is a key and irreplaceable component of fertilizers, and the
location of the "Don Diego" deposit makes it an attractive potential
sourcing site for fertilizer companies in the Americas, Pacific Rim and
Asia. The relatively shallow depth of the deposit and minimal-to-no
overburden will allow the use of existing standard dredging ships and
As previously reported, the most recent NI 43-101 compliant "Technical
Report: Revised Assessment" concludes that the measured and indicated
phosphorite resources at the "Don Diego" deposit total 327.2 million
ore tonnes at 18.5% P2O5, which represents an increase of 20% over the
previous preliminary assessment total of 273.5 million ore tonnes. The
latest assessment also adds 166.4 million inferred ore tonnes at 18.9%
P2O5 to the measured and indicated resource assessment. Further
increases in the measured and indicated quantity of the deposit are
expected when results from the two additional exclusive mining
concession areas are calculated.
About Odyssey Marine Exploration
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (Nasdaq:OMEX) is engaged in deep-ocean
exploration using innovative methods and state of-the-art technology
for shipwreck projects and mineral exploration. Odyssey currently owns
54% of the outstanding shares of subsidiary, Oceanica Resources S. de.
R.L.(Oceanica). Oceanica owns Exploraciones Oceanicos, S. R.L. de CV,
the Mexican operating company with the mining concession containing the
Don Diego phosphate deposit.