Tampa treasure hunter Odyssey Marine Exploration's stock plummeted nearly 60 percent Monday after it disclosed the Mexican government denied the company's application to mine a large deposit of phosphate — a key component of fertilizer — in Mexican waters.
The mining operation, dubbed the "Don Diego" project, has been promoted for some time by Odyssey as a significant piece of its future revenues and efforts to broaden its business beyond finding and salvaging the cargo of sunken ships.
Odyssey shares fell 58.8 percent, closing at $3.45 on the Nasdaq, a loss in net worth for the company of more than $25 million.
Odyssey CEO Mark Gordon expressed disappointment but noted that Mexico's denial was based on a single issue — the potential impact of dredging operations on sea turtles — that he suggested might have a solution. Odyssey is consulting with turtle experts to develop ways to help preserve sea turtles and their habitats, Gordon said. Once this information is presented to the Mexican authorities, Gordon believes the phosphate project may be reconsidered.
"The Don Diego project will proactively fund mitigation and restoration plans designed to increase turtle populations over time," Odyssey said in a statement.
Odyssey has been struggling to boost its stock price for years and recently was warned by Nasdaq that its low share price was out of compliance with trading rules. In February, the company announced a 1-for-12 reverse stock split, effectively raising its sub-$1 price at the time.
The stock topped $9 a share by April 4 but has since dropped sharply.