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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (July 1, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Norwegian government is backing a project that could pave the way for the commercial mining of Cook Islands' seabed minerals in three to four years.

Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate said the announcement is tremendous news for the country and the people of the Cook Islands.

A delegation from the Norwegian Deep Seabed Mining Group is expected to travel to the Cook Islands shortly to sign a Letter of Intent, which would allow phase one of the project to start in August.

This first step of the project will consist of a four-month study to determine the economic viability of the project.

Scientists say the Cook Islands seabed contains manganese nodules and other minerals worth billions of dollars.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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