Cook Islands PM sees opportunity in deep sea mining

Nov 6, 2023 | Blog, Cook Islands, News, Pacific

Cook Islands PM Mark Brown.

Cook Island’s Prime Minister Mark Brown has expressed his plans to safeguard the country against climate change through seabed mining. In an interview with Radio New Zealand Pacific in Rarotonga ahead of the Pacific Islands Annual Forum meeting of leaders, Brown conveyed his view of the Cook Islands as environmental custodians of the ocean.

He stated, “The issue of seabed minerals has now come to the fore, and some of our member countries in the Pacific, including the Cook Islands, have taken a stand to examine the potential of seabed minerals.”

Brown said the central theme behind their exploration phase was the need to protect the marine environment before proceeding toward the harvesting of mineral wealth. He added, “It must be done in a way that ensures the protection of our oceans.”

In discussing the Pacific leaders’ stance on the matter, he stated, “The Pacific leaders were unanimous in their particular stand, and as a result, there is no mining taking place anywhere in the Pacific or the world.” He also highlighted their focus on acquiring the knowledge and understanding required to make an informed decision about the environmental impact.

Brown drew a parallel between the issue of seabed mining and the management of Pacific fisheries, explaining, “We have some of our member countries in the Pacific who have a very strong stance against any form of commercial fishing in their waters and do not allow any licensing in our waters. We have some members who are heavily dependent on fisheries.”

He said their approach to fisheries management, which respects the positions of countries with different perspectives on fishing. He stated, “We see the same sort of reciprocal respect for the positions that countries have taken regarding seabed minerals.”

Brown assured that the Cook Islands prioritised environmental protection over financial gain and vowed not to undertake any actions that would harm or damage the ocean. He clarified their commitment to protecting the country from the effects of climate change, which required substantial financial investments. He remarked, “That money is not coming from any of the countries that have pledged toward protecting countries like ours from the impacts of climate change.”

When asked if this meant protecting the Cook Islands against climate change through seabed mining, Brown responded, “Protecting the country against the impacts of climate change by helping build resilience.”

He emphasized that building resilience required funding, which was not forthcoming from countries responsible for significant carbon emissions and earnings from carbon emissions. Brown pointed out that some deep-sea areas within the Cook Islands held valuable minerals, and while there were no companies engaged in ocean floor mining, exploration activities were in progress.

Brown reaffirmed the Cook Islands’ commitment to adhering to the principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which were incorporated into their legislation. He reiterated their role as environmental stewards of the ocean and their commitment to preventing harm or damage to it.

(From a Radio New Zealand news report)