Cook Islands Seabed Mineral Exploration Gains Momentum

Cooks Finance Minister: Cooks "positioned very, very well as a country within this particular industry"

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, August 02, 2016) – Cook Islands’ effort to explore the potential mineral resources on the seabed floor within its EEZ is gaining momentum following interest from a second company to be part of the exploration phase.

On July 15, the country represented by Cook Islands Investment Corporation chairman Mike Henry signed a contract with the United Nations’ International Seabed Authority (ISA) to exclusive mineral rights to an area of 75,000 square kilometres in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone of the Pacific Ocean.

A joint venture agreement was also signed with GSR which allows the Belgium-based company the opportunity to explore and one day, exploit the contract area that the Cook Islands hold.

Finance minister Mark Brown, who is also the minister responsible for seabed minerals, said the government was expecting to sign their second exploration license with a separate company in the coming months.

He said it was a significant step forward for the country in the field of seabed minerals.

One of the companies and countries involved in the exploration phase would be testing a prototype of their machine that would go down to the sea floor to collect the mineral deposits sitting there, he said.

In the next five years, it was hoped technology would be developed to get the information required to be able to move towards the exploitation of these minerals in the future.

“We are positioned very, very well as a country within this particular industry. We are up there partnering with GSR but we are also closely working with other countries such as Korea and others that are seen as the forefront in developing the technology for seabed minerals exploration,” Brown said.

The drive to explore and potentially exploit seabed mineral resources began in the 1970s when the then leader, late Sir Albert Henry, joined the New Zealand delegation to the Law of the Sea Conference in Caracas, Venezuela. 

He was given the opportunity to speak and on behalf of all small island states in the world, he made an impassioned plea to the larger nations to recognise the rights of island people and nations to the resources of the ocean.

This initiative gained momentum recently when the Seabed Mineral Authority was formed in 2012 to look into the opportunities regarding seabed mineral exploration and exploitation. Brown was initially supposed to seal the deal with the ISA and GSR in June in New York but a minor amendment to the agreement proposed by GSR delayed the signing.

The government’s legal team reviewed the proposal and made the appropriate adjustments before it was put through the process of formal approval by cabinet, culminating in the signing in Jamaica two weeks ago.

“In terms of the exploration, there is also requirement in terms of partnership with our joint venture partner to provide training opportunities to the Cook Islanders to build our capacity in this particular area,” Brown said.

“The exploration phase is to identity areas in the seabed where the best potential for exploitation should occur.”

Brown added the exploration phase would also determine the economic benefits and the environmental impacts from such activities.

These information would then be used to seek the exploitation license in the near future, he added.

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2016 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment