Deep Sea Mining – The Cook Islands Context

Ocean Health is our Ocean Wealth

The deep sea is home to a range of diverse and unique species and ecosystems. Some deep-sea areas within the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are also rich in polymetallic nodules,
which contain valuable minerals. The nodules grow over millions of years in very stable environments, and are the target of commercial mining interest, both within our EEZ, and outside,
in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (the international seabed).

Our Society is concerned that with the current level of scientific uncertainty around the deep sea and deepsea mining means that measures to mitigate or avoid environmental impacts will not be effective.  Therefore our position is, that a minimum 10-year moratorium is the most appropriate application of the Precautionary Principle.  This is consistent with the statement of over 660 marine scientists and policy experts who have signed a statement calling for a pause on deep sea mining.

We are a full member of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and our position aligns with the IUCN Resolution 069 seeks a moratorium be applied on new exploration and exploitation consents unless and until more certainty on the full impacts is understood(amongst other matters).  Refer full text of Resolution 069 here.

Our position would also:

  1. align with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030;
  2. allow for more international scientific research to be carried out, particularly by non mining institutions, resulting in reduced uncertainty;
  3. allow time to complete the Marae Moana Marine Spatial Plan;
  4. allow time to further investigate the potential for a resource-efficient circular economy without the need to mine for new metals;
  5. not interfere with the Cook Islands efforts to contribute to global biodiversity targets;
  6. allow time for the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority (SBMA) and the International Seabed Authority to improve efforts to transparently and effectively engage
    stakeholders in decision-making processes; and
  7. allow time for the SBMA to invite independent research organisations to assist the Cook Islands with deep sea research, in order to avoid conflicts of interest that would inevitably arise if this research is carried out solely by mining companies.

While the Society are predominantly concerned with impacts of mining for polymetallic nodules in the Cook Islands context, we appreciate that Cook Islanders are also beneficiaries of the common
heritage of mankind, and that the Cook Islands is a sponsor state to an exploratory contract in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the high seas.  As such, we are concerned about all types of deep-sea mining, and the
lack of scientific information around the entire deep-sea and the global industry.

Click here to view our full Position Statement on Deep Sea Mining (November 2020)

Click here to view our submissions to the SBMA on the three applications for Exploration Licenses (December 2021)

Click here to view our submission to the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Act 2019

Click here to view our submission to the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Amendment Act 2020

Read our info pamphlet on Deep Sea Mining