My reference to seabed mining
licences being recommended by the Seabed Minerals Licensing Panel is absolutely
Governments, government agencies,
NGOs, the UN Special Envoy on Oceans, Google, Samsung, Volvo and BMW have
called for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining so that data can be collected
to better understand the impacts of mining.
Their concern is that exploration
will be done only enough to support and justify mining.
They’re concerned that exploration
won’t be done long enough to determine the long-term effects of mining or the
effects on species indirectly connected to the mined area, among other
My concern is the same and also that
once companies invest millions of dollars to collect exploration data, it will
be difficult for the government to deny a mining licence for any particular
There are terrestrial
mining companies that have sued authorities in other countries for denying
a mining licence.
While the Seabed Minerals Act 2019
gives us a number of options for denying a licence, is there provision for the
government to deny a mining licence simply because the Cook Islands decided it
no longer wanted to pursue seabed mining as a development option?
Is there provision to deny a mining
licence for the reason that the Cook Islands government and/or the Cook Islands
community don’t believe sufficient data has been collected to determine risks?
What is the exact wording used in
agreements the Cook Islands have with foreign companies that protect us from a
lawsuit should we decide for whatever reason not to issue a mining licence?
What other ways are we protected
There are other questions I’ve
raised in my letter of 25th September that
The decision to pursue seabed mining
was made by just a few individuals based on a dream instilled during
expeditions decades ago before the human race was aware of the scale at which
humans can impact the environment.
Yet, similar to the cases of the
Sheraton hotel and Toagate, it’s the people who will be liable through
their taxes if a mining company successfully sues us, or worse, if insufficient
data is collected to understand the impacts of mining and we irreversibly
damage our ecosystem through issuing licences to mine.
Because of the uncertainty, we
should consider a referendum so the people can decide if this is a development
option for us.
This discussion needs to remain
public where it is transparent and inclusive.
Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman’s reply – I do not believe that back and forth letters to the editor leads to a constructive discussion on SBM (seabed minerals) issues.
of the public can contact the Authority to discuss their concerns further by
valid concerns are raised, including by Ms Evans, the Authority will publish
those questions and responses for the public.
that the Authority will be addressing in the coming days include the moratorium
call and our SBM licensing regime.
not be responding to further letters to the editor, particularly those
containing sensationalist statements, unless it is to clarify Government’s
position or where I believe it will be of benefit to our people’s understanding
of the SBM issues at hand.
Bless and Kia Manuia.
kelvin passfield on 12/10/2021
Some very fair and valid questions here from Jacqui Evans, a very well educated and knowledgeable Cook Islander who has gained international recognition for her work as an environmentalist. The reply from the Seabed Minerals Authority is disappointing.
This letter from Ms Evans contains valid questions from a concerned member of the Public, which other members of the public are just as interested in the answers to. SBMA should not get to decide that the questions are sensational, and not worthy of a response. In a democratic society, letters to the editor are acknowledged as one way to bring issues to the attention of the public that otherwise may be ignored by government - no doubt the reason this letter was sent to the editor in the first place, and not to the SBMA. If the Authority is able to adequately answer the questions privately, responding publicly should not be an issue, and will go a long way in demonstrating good faith and transparency.