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Demos, OCI engage all on deep-sea mining

Monday June 11, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
Representatives from the American deep-sea mining company Ocean Minerals Limited were in the Cook Islands earlier this year inspecting the Layar Mas 291 with regard to possibly purchasing the barge and repurposing it for deep-sea exploration. 18061018 Representatives from the American deep-sea mining company Ocean Minerals Limited were in the Cook Islands earlier this year inspecting the Layar Mas 291 with regard to possibly purchasing the barge and repurposing it for deep-sea exploration. 18061018

In the lead-up to the June 14 election, CI News is asking the main political parties to comment on issues of interest to the public. We have two questions today and the first is: The current government put a hold on permanent residencies some time ago without ever explaining why. What are your party's policies on permanent residency?

Democratic Party 

Prior to the last election we observed the gifting of Permanent Residency to 80 people, including a number of CIP supporters, before the government slammed the door and locked it up, citing that they needed to examine the method of granting PR.

It has been four years and still that door is locked in the name of “consulting”.

The Democratic Party will open the door on PR and examine the backlog of requests.

Our policy is that PR is not something to be handed out as a reward for political support. We will look at the merits of each applicant and how they have or are contributing to the Cook Islands.

Permanent Residency will also necessarily expire when those people leave our shores to take up their permanent residence elsewhere.

One Cook Islands

We acknowledge that Permanent Residency is a matter of concern, but for now it is not considered a policy priority and will be dealt with accordingly in due course. For now, it is considered a “work in progress”.

Note: No reply was received from the Cook Islands Party to this question.

Question Two: What is your party’s stance on deep-sea mining? Will it provide the financial bonanza that the current prime minister has described?

Democratic Party

Experts in the exploration of the Cook Islands’ manganese nodules resource say that our country holds 10 billion tons of manganese nodules. This potentially makes our people extremely wealthy.

Although in principle the Democratic Party supports the development opportunities that arise out of this resource, we also need to ensure the engagement of all of our people, including the most severe critics of offshore mining, conservationists and civil society.

In addition, we need to support a three-tiered, bottom-line analysis, measuring social, environmental and economic benefits, including the effects on sustainable fishing and tourism.

As government we intend to adopt relevant and appropriate environmental, licensing, and financial legislation on seabed minerals.

We will also maintain dialogue with our Pacific Island neighbours on issues relating to mining, exploratory mining and miners, and develop as quickly as possible scholarships and capacity building geared towards the new ocean economy.

It is our intention first of all to take stock of the work undertaken by the Seabed Minerals Authority and to share that information with our people.

One Cook Islands

Again, this will be done on a multi-party approach, as any future protocols, proposals or projected outcomes will be contingent on input by all concerned, including all political parties and the rest of society.

Critical to this will be an updated analysis of the current legislation to ensure it is robust and incorporates the interests and benefits to the people of the Cook Islands.

Any talk of financial bonanzas is premature at this stage until the books have been opened and the principles of transparency and accountability have been applied.

Cook Islands Party

The Cook Islands passed the world’s first seabed mining legislation in 2009. Since then, government has established the Seabed Minerals Commission.

We have received significant technical assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat, SPC and the International Seabed Authority to be able to put in place the management and regulatory framework that expects to receive applications for exploration licenses.

Government has started work on the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund along the lines of the Norwegian model to protect and ensure sustainability of any revenues that may be earned if we move to exploitation stage.

A World Bank report released last year identified deep-sea mining as one of the big five key industries likely to deliver economic growth in the next 25 years.

Our prime minister’s description should be viewed in light of all the work conducted since 1974 to date. Recognising the extensive research and documentation completed, and the growing demand by international markets for raw materials, financial rewards will be expected.

The aim of developing this industry will be to benefit the country in terms of reinvesting in social and economic services that lessen the gaps between our Pa Enua, and provide health, education and investment reserve buffers for our people now and for generations to come.