Seabed mining

Tuvalu and Kiribati have joined a group of Pacific Island countries to proactively formulate rules for seabed mining alongside the Cook Islands, Fiji and Tonga.

Tuvalu has secured technical assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and set new standards with its Seabed Minerals Act 2014.

Under the act, coastal communities must be consulted before granting approval for mining projects within Tuvalu’s waters.

Tuvalu Attorney General Ese Apinelu said: "I’m thankful for assistance provided by the Deep Sea Minerals project, which has now equipped Tuvalu with a set of tools that will allow us to maximise the benefits of deep sea minerals for our people."

Partnership between SPC and the Deep Sea Minerals project, European Union provides technical advice and assistance to enable Pacific Island countries to make informed decisions about deep seabed mining.

"SPC will continue to work with the countries to develop the legal instruments required and assist…in this fascinating, emerging area."

Deep sea minerals such as sea floor massive sulphides, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts and manganese nodules located in international waters can be accessed only through sponsorship of a state.

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Last month, Kiribati signed a contract with the International Seabed Authority through its state-owned company Marawa Research Exploration, joining Nauru and Tonga countries that have already signed contracts for exploration in international waters.

The contract aims to gain an exploration licence for polymetallic nodules in the clarion clipperton fracture zone in the east Pacific.

SPC geoscience division director Mike Petterson: "SPC will continue to work with the countries to develop the legal instruments required and assist with capacity building and awareness raising programmes in this fascinating, emerging area."

Image: Deep sea minerals in international waters can be accessed only through state sponsorship. Photo: courtesy of SPC.