18 Deep-Sea Mining Prospecting Licenses Approved By Fiji

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Exploration could lead to ways to mine safely: official

By Shayal Devi

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 12, 2013) – Eighteen special prospecting licences for deep-sea minerals in Fiji's exclusive economic zone were given to Nautilus Minerals of Canada, Bluewater Minerals Australia and Korea Institute of Science and Technology.

This was according to the director of Mineral and Resources Department Malakai Finau.

Mr Finau stated that Fiji was still in the exploration phase.

"With the current exploration licences issued, hopefully it will lead to identification of economic mineral deposits," he said.

"Also, it can lead to identifying much more important ways in which it can be mined safely and without adversely impacting the environment and other natural resources of the deep-sea environment."

Mr Finau said from a mineral development perspective, deep-sea mining meant developing mineral resources sustainably for the benefit of the nation.

"Deep-sea mining can also provide possible sources of employment, economic activity and financial benefits generated from such activity.

"The other major benefit as compared to land-based open cast mining is its low footprint given that it occurs far away from land and at great depths."

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme director general David Sheppard says deep-sea mining should be considered as only one potential use of ocean resources, alongside an integrated approach with conservation, fisheries, and tourism. Sheppard says particular attention should be paid to impacts, setting thresholds, benefits and long-term sustainability.]

He also said deep-sea mining could have an impact on the environment.

"Deep-sea mining is similar to land-based mining in many ways but we are trying hard to learn from the adverse environment impacts of some land-based mining bad practices.

"We also look at other ways of identifying such adverse impacts socially, economically and how it can be better managed so we could all benefit from it."

So far, Fiji looks good for deep-sea mining and Mr Finau said "we have the experience of hindsight with many years of land-based mining in Fiji and the many lessons there is to learn from."

"The lessons are not only within Fiji but from the region where mining has been part of economic development in our neighbouring countries namely New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia."

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