The proposed moratorium in fact calls for research to better understand any potential impacts of mining.
On August 14 2019 at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in Tuvalu, Pacific civil society organisations encouraged Forum leaders to endorse a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining in the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
This would allow for the generation of scientific data and information to better inform the governance and conservation of our ocean, they said.
This position was supported by Fiji, Vanuatu and later Papua New Guinea.
The Seabed Minerals Authority press release says the call for a moratorium stems from a lack of understanding of the environmental impacts of seabed harvesting. “We need to make decisions based on science, not fear of the unknown.”
This too is false. The call for a moratorium is because of organisations’ concern over the government proceeding with mining without sufficient research to prevent environmental impacts.
Holding off mining until we have further information through research should not be classified as “fear of the unknown”; it is acting in accordance with the precautionary principle.
Civil society organisations have reason to be concerned that government won’t proceed with caution.
Te Ipukarea Society and Korero O Te Orau are represented on the Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group because they have individuals qualified in marine science and environmental science, but they have expressed frustration that their suggestions are ignored by government.
I had a similar experience while working in government.
Yet the Seabed Minerals Authority claims “government agencies work cooperatively” with local organisations.
Local environmental organisations understand that development is necessary, but also have valuable knowledge of how development can be done sustainably including how long it takes to gather biological and other scientific information.
The government expects Cook Islands to “be ready to harvest precious metals from the ocean floor in just five years”.
Without adequate time to gather data, there is a risk of causing irreversible damage to marine life in our ocean.
Communicating false information to the public is just unacceptable.