French Polynesia joins the number of Pacific nations against deep sea mining, calling for a temporary ban on seabed mining projects.
The nation wants regional neighbours Cook Islands, Nauru and Kiribati to drop their plans of exploration and possible mining of mineral rich nodules from the sea floor.
Palau, Fiji, Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu and Tuvalu are against deep sea mining without information that proves no harm will be done to the ecosystem.
In June 2021, Nauru notified the International Seabed Authority (ISA) that its sponsored entity, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI), plans to commence deep-sea mining in two years’ time, triggering a two-year rule embedded in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
That two years ends in June 2023 and Canadian miners The Metals Company have already developed machinery which would be used to collect the nodules from depths as much as 5000m below the sea.
The ISA has yet to generate a mining code that would set out rules and regulations for deep-sea mining activities.
Experts are concerned that the ISA will prematurely approve Nauru’s application and that deep-sea mining will commence before we fully understand the damage it could cause to biodiversity and ecosystems.
French Polynesia’s Minister for Marine Resources, Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, told Tahiti Nui TV that this should be an example to other Pacific neighbours.
“Kiribati, Nauru and the Cook Islands are already engaged in an exploration process. We need to convince our cousins of the Pacific to stop this craziness,” he said.
“We are the first country member of the Forum to take this resolution on, I must say, the exploration of the seabed. The knowledge that we have of our seabed is only five percent.”
French Polynesia’s vast Economic Exclusive Zone is 4.7 million square kilometres and within it mineral rich nodules and seamounts have been discovered.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said no nation should be inclined towards deep sea mining without understanding the ramifications of such a process.
“The Government of Tuvalu stands firm in opposing activities related to Deep Sea Mining and believes there should be the highest standards of environmental and social safeguards in place before this type of activity could ever be considered,” he said.
The Solomon Islands Minister of Mines and Energy Bradley Tovosia told parliament that there is large interest from outside to conduct deep sea mining within Solomon Island waters.
He said before any mining lease is given out a nationwide consultation would take place.
He said the government will be taking a cautious approach when it comes to opening up the country to deep sea mining, as it has a duty to consult with communities and stakeholders on its appropriateness for Solomon Islands.
The nodules on the seabed contain mineral needed for the manufacture of battery for electrical and electronic devices. According to calculations provided through scientific studies, the nodules represent up to $20 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth.
Pacific nations which have shown interest to explore and extract are after the economic prosperity the industry would bring, however there is concern that this activity could present a real threat especially to the Pacific nations.