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Cook Islands Two-Year Milestone for Seabed Minerals Exploration Licenses

Cook Islands Two-Year Milestone for Seabed Minerals Exploration Licenses

Two years was marked since the country’s first seabed minerals exploration licenses were issued on February 23, 2022. A major milestone and achievement for the Cook Islands after many years of preparation.

Rima Browne with her award for Excellence in Deep-Sea Research, alongside Secretary-General of the ISA, H.E. Mr. Michael W.Lodge.

Licenses were issued to three companies: CIC, CIIC Seabed Resources (now Cobalt Seabed Resources) and Moana Minerals. They were all subject to a 16-month application process run by the Seabed Minerals Authority (SBMA), involving due diligence assessments, public consultations, expert panel evaluations and various other review processes.

An Exploration License allows the companies to conduct exploration activities in their licensed areas for a period of five years.

Two years into exploration, the companies have undertaken studies, and importantly explored our waters. We now have gigabytes of new data and new knowledge—with the environmental data publicly available on our website.

Two years into exploration, the Cook Islands Government has made significant progress in building our seabed minerals (SBM) sector by strengthening our regulatory frameworks, engaging with our communities, and developing the sector in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Some key milestones from the past two years include:

  • The arrivals of the research exploration vessels MV Seasurveyor in June 2022 and MV Anuanua Moana in February 2023.
  • The appointment and training of local inspectors to accompany exploration expeditions to ensure license holder compliance with our laws. Inspectors are required to complete a training program, providing unique opportunities and qualifications for Cook Islanders.
  • The Aitutaki DEEPEND workshop in December 2022 provided us with an opportunity to learn more about deep-sea biodiversity and marine genetic resources, as well as exploring future collaborations within the Cook Islands. The potential for deep-sea biodiversity to yield new medicines is an exciting avenue being explored as part of DEEPEND, a UK-based research project that has partnered with several Pacific institutions, including SBMA and the University of the South Pacific.
  • Our community consultations in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua have continued, with our people expressing broad support for the Government’s responsible and sustainable development of the SBM sector and the current exploration program, while also allowing concerns for the environmental, social, and economic impacts of this industry to be shared. These consultations are part of Government’s ongoing engagement with our communities to ensure they are aware of SBM developments and have an opportunity to share their views.
  • While our Cook Islands nodules resource has been estimated in the past, in May 2023 the first Mineral Resource Estimate classified and reported in accordance with the JORC (Joint Ore Reserve Committee) code was produced, showing nodule reserves of approximately 6.7 billion tons within our own Exclusive Economic Zone. JORC is a reporting code widely accepted by minerals sector professionals worldwide, and a requirement for stock exchanges in New Zealand and Australia.
  • In July 2023 our very own SBMA scientist Rima Browne was recognized by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) with an international award for excellence in deep-sea research, after her new geomorphological map of the Cook Islands was nominated for consideration by researchers from the Pacific Community and Norway.
  • The Aitutaki Rarotonga Transect Expedition (ARTEX) was a two-day expedition run by SBMA in November 2023 and utilizing the Moana Minerals research vessel Anuanua Moana. The first known deep-sea marine science expedition between Aitutaki and Rarotonga, ARTEX was locally led and managed, setting new ground in terms of low-cost collaborative research.
  • And in late 2023, SBMA commissioned our own Seabed Minerals Data Repository (CSD), which includes a CSD Public area which will make all SBM environmental data publicly available. Currently scheduled for completion by next month, the CSD will store data collected through SBM activities and will be accessible via the SBMA website.

Meitaki maata to all our Cook Islands people and stakeholders for your support and contributions, and we look forward to working with you and our communities into another year of exploration and discovery.


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