Cook Islands Parliament makes changes to seabed mining law

Photo: SPREP

The Cook Islands has made amendments to its Seabed Minerals Act this week, including replacing the term “mining” with “minerals harvesting … to reflect the actual activity that takes place”.

The bill was passed in Parliament on Monday local time, including five other deepsea mining amendments.

Prime Minister Mark Brown, who is also the minister responsible for seabed minerals, said mining was a broad term which ranged from extraction through to digging and cutting.

“The clear feedback from our stakeholders and communities is that they prefer to use a specific term when we refer to collecting nodules from the floor, so we have introduced the term harvesting, to reflect the actual activity that takes place,” he said in Parliament when presenting the amendments.

Three mining companies have been exploring the Cook Islands exclusive-economic zone (EEZ) to find out whether deepsea mining can go ahead without causing serious environmental harm – the measure needed to be satisfied to allow it to happen.

Brown said the new terminology rule would apply to all three companies currently exploring the Cook Islands waters.

The other amendments to the Seabed Minerals Act relate to standards and guidelines, due diligence recovery cost, information management, amending the annual reporting period to match the dates from which the licences are granted instead of the calendar year, and a process for companies to change its name.

Brown said the Seabed Minerals Authority had been reviewing its laws and processes, identifying areas for improvement to ensure they were fit for purpose.

“We are building a world leading seabed minerals sector based on best principles and practices, with an effective, robust legal framework, to benefit the Cook Islands and our people,” he said.

Brown said Friday would mark the second year of the exploration minerals programme, and he was pleased to see their goals becoming a reality and more opportunities created. He added the country was only allowing exploration at the moment and said anyone saying mining had already started is “peddling misinformation.