Lynch said a quick check of national Budget documents, which are provided by MFEM each year and posted online, could have verified the correct facts.
“The annual Seabed Minerals Operating Budget is $110,000 and the total budget is $291,000. In fact, the Seabed Minerals office, operations and Budget has actually shrunk by over $80,000 since commencement in 2013.”
Another incorrect assertion was that “prospecting” licences had been granted to a US company, he said.
“The $US8,000 a month they are now paying to the Cook Islands is for a “holding” or first option right- nothing more. No licence has been applied for, or issued.”
Lynch said the steady and sustainable development and progress of the country’s new national seabed minerals sector was very positive and something the Cook Islands was being commended for overseas.
“In fact, it is expected that within not so many years, our new seabed minerals sector will become an even more significant, self-sustaining, economic contributor to our small economy,” he said.
“The exciting long-term benefit for the Cook Islands is that, given our amazing abundance of deep sea mineral resources, this new sector and national revenue could go on for an anticipated 400-plus years.
Any one of our more than 20 small seabed minerals blocks could be sustainably used for 20 years each.”
Lynch said of this potential seabed minerals revenue was to be preserved in a national Sovereign Wealth Fund, for the benefit of our current and future generations in the Cook Islands.