SOPAC DEFENDS BENEFITS OF PACIFIC SEABED MINING

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Says deep sea mining will bring Pacific tangible benefits

PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 19, 2011) - Akuila Tawake, Deep Sea Minerals Project Team Leader for a European Union (EU) funded project, stressed the importance of such projects in the Pacific region.

Mr. Tawake explained that the Deep Sea Minerals Project is administered by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), a division of SPC, and is developing a regional legislative and regulatory framework for deep-sea mineral mining.

"This will help ensure that sustainable resource management will bring tangible benefits to Pacific Island Countries and their people, "Mr. Tawake said.

Mr. Tawake was responding to a story that appeared on Pac News that questioned the motives of those involved with the project.

"Since the Project was conceived as a result of a number of Pacific Islands Countries requesting the SOPAC Division for advisory assistance and technical support relating to seabed minerals, it is difficult to understand who is being disenfranchised", Mr Tawake said.

He said that the Deep Sea Mineral Project is not only being supported by the SPC member countries, but by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, as well as the EU.

The overall objective of the project, he said, is to expand the economic resource base of Pacific ACP States by developing a viable and sustainable deep-sea marine minerals industry.

He said the specific objective is to strengthen the system of governance and capacity of Pacific ACP States in the management of deep-sea minerals.

"This can only be achieved through the development and implementation of sound and regionally integrated legal frameworks, improved human and technical capacity and effective environmental monitoring systems", Mr Tawake said.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile the regional civil society group Pacific Network On Globalisation (PANG) has expressed their concern in a Press Release regarding the lack of precautionary approach towards the sustainable development of experimental seabed mining. The group says they "…are angry that SOPAC, with the financial support of the European Union, is assisting Pacific states to push forward the development of a regional legislative and regulatory framework for experimental seabed mining …without the benefit of adequate scientific debates nor of prior public dialogue and meaningful community participation." On December 1 the group launched a public petition against seabed mining and has since garnered signatures from as far as Nigeria and Guyana, diverse groups in Canada, Asia, Hawaii and the Pacific, Pacific and Australia churches and feminists from across the world.]

Mr. Tawake said that to date there is only one potential deep-sea mining project in the Pacific region and that is scheduled to become operational in 2013. It is the Solwara 1 project in the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea. The mining company, Nautilus Minerals has been working with the Papua New Guinea government since l997 to explore seafloor massive sulphide deposits with the option to develop those mineral resources if feasible.

Mr. Tawake said that the Papua New Guinea government has taken 14 years to make the decision to allow Nautilus Minerals to develop the mine.

The Deep Sea Minerals Project is currently being implemented in the following fifteen island countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, East Timor, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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