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Endeavour offers $46 million for right to explore

By Rachel Reeves

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 22, 2012) - Canadian company Endeavour has offered government NZ$55 million [US$46 million] for a licence to explore the Cook Islands seabed to determine its mining potential.

Minister of deep-sea mining Tom Marsters confirmed in parliament yesterday that the offer is on the table, as he responded to a question from opposition leader Wilkie Rasmussen about whether rumours Endeavour had offered government NZ$25 million [US$21 million] were true.

"There is an offer on the table, yes," Marsters said. "But the offer is for NZ$55 million – NZ$15 million [US$13 million] is up-front payment to the government and the other NZ$40 million [US$33 million] is an investment on the part of Endeavour to do their own research.

"...They have assured us that upon the signing of the agreement, within 30 days they will have NZ$15 million in our bank account."

Marsters gave a brief history of the government’s negotiations with Endeavour. He held up a coloured map of the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic zone.

"That is the very latest from the scientific world concerning the minerals in our EEZ. If I were to bring you an expanded map of the whole world you would find that nowhere else in the world is (manganese) so concentrated as our EEZ. A lot of work has been done since we took over from the previous government.

"...By the end of the month a technical adviser, co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat and ourselves, will be in place and on the ground here in Rarotonga.

"We have not changed anything that the former government has put in place because we felt when we came in that the programme they had set was a good programme."

Marsters explained that from the beginning, Endeavour had expressed a keen interest in exploring the Cook Islands seabed. He said it is too early for him to announce with confidence that Endeavour will be awarded an exploratory licence, but nevertheless he hopes the company will "find a place within the scope of the total programme of our seabed mining".

"Until all aspects are in place it would not be advisable for us to jump those hurdles sooner than when it should be happening," Marsters said.

Teenui-Mapumai member of parliament Norman George raised concerns about the negotiation process.

"Don’t be too fussy about investment from the Endeavour mineral people – that could be an opportunity we could lose. Don’t waste too much time painfully going through non-existent problems. Get real, get practical but just make sure that we are not negotiating an agreement which will end up like the Toagate agreement," George said.

"Don’t forget – opportunities don’t remain forever, when there’s opportunity there, get going. Get working. Get the right people to advise you and get money in the bank. Cure the deficit so you don’t also impose new baby and old age taxes that you have unwisely done in the last year."

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