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By Helen Greig

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 20) – A Canadian merchant bank's grandiose scheme to spend $32 million on research and $1 billion over three years exploring manganese deposits on the Cook Islands seabed will be presented to cabinet today.

The bank says it is prepared to spend $1 billion proving the mineral wealth in the vast Cook Islands EEZ or exclusive economic zone.

The committee set up by cabinet to review all expressions of interest in the country's manganese nodules seabed resource has received several expressions of interest from international entities - and all are being treated with equal caution, says chairman Terepai Maoate jnr.

Maoate says all entities are being asked to furnish personal and company background information to enable thorough background checks to be conducted by the Financial Intelligence Unit.

"Following the advice of the solicitor general (Mike Mitchell), the committee has made it a condition that this information must be made available before any discussions are held."

Maoate says one group has been informed by the committee that further discussions will not be entered into following the failure of that group to provide the committee with background information.

The committee has also been contacted by an international ocean mining company which has indicated interest in obtaining a license to explore the seafloor within the Cook Islands EEZ. Supporting documentation has been provided by the company to the committee and Maoate says this is being carefully examined before any decision is made.

Maoate's statement, issued yesterday, came just before today's meeting of Endeavour Mining Capital with cabinet. The merchant banking company invests in global natural resources and is reportedly willing to pay for the mining rights to Cook Islands' manganese nodules whether or not there is a favourable result.

If mining rights are approved, Endeavour plans to spend over a billion dollars investing in the mining of the nodules. They expect that initial research studies will cost $32 million and estimate it will take 40 months (just over three years) to get to the commercial production stage.

Lead developer Matthew Mason, Endeavour executive David Laing and Endeavour advisor Gordon Keep are making a presentation to cabinet.

The businessmen are also taking part in public meetings to present their interest in the manganese resource this week. The first of these meetings will be held today at 7pm at the Kent Hall. Takitumu mayor Teariki Matenga says the meeting is open to all who are interested. - Helen Greig

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