International
via Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration

World - Cook Islands Govt Defends Taking Plunge on Deepsea Mining

The Cook Islands prime minister has denied that his country is gambling with ocean health by opening up for deep sea mining exploration.

Mark Brown announced that companies keen to conduct exploration in parts of the Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone have until next month to put in expressions of interest.

The Cook Islands' roughly two million square kilometres of EEZ contains an estimated 10 billion tonnes of polymetallic nodules, rich in manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth minerals. Some of these metals are required for batteries for electric vehicles, and interest in them is growing.

Economic strains caused by the pandemic have highlighted the need for Cook Islands to diversify its tourism-reliant economy. While Brown doesn't attribute his government's plan to open up for exploration to these strains alone, he told RNZ Pacific in an extensive interview that the intention to allow exploration was planned a number of years ago.

There is relatively little known about the furthest depths of the Pacific Ocean, several kilometres down, where some of these nodules are located. Advocates of deep sea mining don't deny that more research is required. Furthermore, even scientists aligned with the companies looking to explore admit that mining would entail substantial damage, but they argue it would be less significant than that caused by land-ore mining.

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