Cobalt in Cooks awaits exploitation

Could supply 10% of global supply

This year could be a defining year for seabed minerals in Cook Islands. There are plans by its government to move a step closer to exploration of its massive cobalt resource, following the completion of consultation work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on how to maximise this potential national wealth. In an interview with Islands Business last year, Cook Islands’ Minister for Finance Mark Brown revealed his government’s intention to ensure that critical groundwork is laid before any advancement in this area, given that undersea mineral exploitation is still a new frontier globally.

“Our legislations have been in place for a number of years now and they came into force in March (last year), so we’ve been setting in place a legal framework for the exploitation of our minerals resources,” Brown told Islands Business. “We are also in the process with the IMF of working out a taxation and royalties legislation to determine how we will maximise the returns on those resources. And we also had a study done on the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund so that revenues collected from this particular resource will go into a dedicated sovereign wealth fund,” Brown added. Cook Islands is said to be sitting on a significant field of manganese nodules, which are known to host mineralisation in the seafloor. According to a study done there in the 1990s, its manganese nodules are so rich in cobalt that they’re enough to supply global demand for the next 500 years.

Known data at the time estimated that even if a small portion of Cook Islands’ manganese nodules is mined, it would be enough to supply 10 percent of the world’s annual cobalt consumption. Although interest in exploration work there has been expressed and carried out by a number of parties in the past, among them a U.S engineering firm, they have not translated to any progress in actual mining as economic viability was always questioned.

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