Deep sea manganese nodules found in the Cook Islands EEZ. SEABED MINERALS AUTHORITY / 20092117
As the government's exploration application process moves forward, a local environmental NGO is recommending only a “very small area” be given out at first for seabed mining exploration in order to determine potential impacts.
Minerals Authority has received three applications for licence to explore deep
sea mining in Cook Islands waters.
commissioner Alex Herman has confirmed receiving two exploration licence
applications in the tender area and one in the reserved area.
application for licencing process for seabed mining exploration was launched on
October 22, 2020 and closed last month.
said: “We are currently processing those applications. This includes completion
and due diligence checks, public notifications and evaluation of the
local environment group Te Ipukarea Society is calling on the Authority not to
finalise any exploration licences for Cook Islands seabed minerals until areas
of conservation are set aside.
technical director Kelvin Passfield said: “For example, the Seabed Minerals
Authority have told us that they don’t want companies going near seamounts and
that the companies don’t want to either.”
would be better to have these areas mapped and declared out of bounds for
exploration, as a necessary part of the Marine Spatial Planning process for our
Marae Moana, before issuing the licences. This Marine Spatial Planning process
is nowhere near completed, and mining exclusion zones should be mapped before
exploration licences are issued.”
said they also needed to know how much of the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic
zone (EEZ) was being explored, “what they’re looking for and who they will
share environmental data with”.
still want a moratorium on exploitation. We understand that research needs to
occur so we aren't completely anti-exploration, if done in an environmentally
safe manner, and biodiversity data collection is given equal importance to the
have a preference for independent research first, and request time (i.e. a
minimum of 10 years moratorium, coinciding with the call by the United Nations
for a decade of ocean science) for this research to happen. After exploration
we need to wait because the impacts, even of the less intensive exploration,
will take time to manifest themselves, and to monitor properly - e.g.
bioaccumulation of heavy metals and other toxins in pelagic fish etc.”
said they would recommend only a “very small area” be given out at first for
exploration, in order to determine what impacts there may be, before expanding
forward to the public consultation process on these licence applications before
they are awarded. We have made a number of contacts in the area of deep ocean
science, and feel we can help Government a lot on doing their due diligence.”
diligence checks are where the Authority ensures that the applicant had the
technical and financial capability to operate in Cook Islands water.
applications are to go through the ‘licensing process’ and this includes public
notice and comment on applications where the public are informed of the
applications made and given a chance to submit their comments.
will be made by an expert Licensing Panel – made up of experts from different
Herman said it would take some months to get through each of these steps.
research will help us to better understand whether the harvesting of our seabed
nodules is possible – in an ecologically sustainable manner, and without
serious harm to our marine environment – or not,” she said.
Passfield said considering the publicity campaign around the launch of the
tender process, and all the global hype about the apparent need for these
minerals to supply the “green transition”, they thought there may have been
more interest in the exploration licences.
the metals are not currently as in demand as they would have us believe. It may
be that the volatility of the minerals market, and the uncertainty of what
future technology breakthroughs may mean for the need for these minerals, have
made investors more cautious.
must keep everyone informed, every step of the way. They should show the public
where stakeholder submissions have been considered/incorporated. And where they
have not been incorporated, details on why not.”