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LETTERS: Research first, then exploration

Saturday 25 September 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTERS: Research first, then exploration

Letters for Saturday September 25, 2021

Dear Editor,

The Seabed Minerals Authority (SBMA) says that it’s difficult to understand a certain position on the seabed mining moratorium (Cook Islands News, Saturday, September 18).

The international call for a moratorium (temporary stop) on seabed mining by Pacific regional leaders Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu as well as governments and government agencies worldwide, NGO’s and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Oceans, allows for research to be done during the UN Decade of Ocean Science 2021-2030.

The moratorium is also a call for agreement on the minimum time period required for good information to be gathered from deep sea research. It’s a way to address conflict and mistrust and in our case, to protect the Cook Islands reputation.

As explained in detail (my letter CINews, Wed 15 Sep) at least ten years of information is likely needed before it can be concluded whether mining should go ahead.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is a respected organisation comprised of member governments, government agencies, NGOs and independent scientists from all corners of the world—and they are even asking for a ban on exploration.

Exploration includes the testing of mining equipment and the collection of nodules, both activities that will impact the ocean environment, regardless of whether or not an EIA has been done. Creating two distinct phases for exploration activities allows for data to be collected about the natural condition of the environment before potentially harmful exploration activities change the natural characteristics and functioning of the area (see my letter CINews, Wed 15 Sep)

IUCN and independent scientists both locally and internationally (who are not part of the IUCN network) recommend ten years of research that has a much smaller impact including measuring ocean currents, water sampling, and studying the biology of marine life in the deep ocean. These studies will help to understand, for example, whether or not it’s possible for chemical contamination from mining to enter the food chain and consequently our tuna.

We are likely to need a minimum of ten years of independent research before we admit mining companies to begin exploration that will include nodule extraction and sediment plumes. The Seabed Minerals Authority has criticised the possibility of doing independent research. How many oceanographic research institutions independent of mining companies has the Seabed Minerals Authority approached? When were they approached and who were they?

I would love to agree with the government on mining but I cannot support mining when, amongst other things, there is an unwillingness by them to integrate suggestions from the Cook Islands community as to how our ocean could be better protected.  

Jacqui Evans

Tupapa