The CCZ spans six million square kilometres and the Cook Islands will join around 15 other countries and private companies which have been allocated exclusive areas.
Seabed Minerals Authority minister Mark Brown has been in Jamaica at the International Seabed Authority headquarters to work out the final issues related to the signing of the contract with the International Seabed Authority for the three areas in the CCZ designated for the Cook Islands. The three areas total 75 thousand square kilometres.
It was thought ISA Secretary-general Nii Allotey would travel to Rarotonga and the contract signed during the 50th Te Maeva Nui, but it’s unlikely this will happen during the country’s historic celebrations, says Brown. However, it is going to happen this year, he says.
Brown says ISA has been working on finalising some details of the contract as the Cook Islands wanted some changes made.
“We had to delay the contract signing until we are happy with one component that deals with training opportunities that must be made available to the ISA by the contractors (the Cook Islands and their sponsoring states).”
The Cook Islands wants to wait until details of the training opportunities are finalised before signing the contract, he says.
Brown says the contract that the government signs will be handled by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation on behalf of government. The long-term aim is to establish a state-owned enterprise that will be responsible for operational aspects of the seabed industry.
“This includes any partnership arrangements that we enter into with private companies.”
The Seabed Minerals Authority, headed by Paul Lynch, is responsible for regulatory aspects such as managing licensing processes for government.
While in Jamaica Brown says he informed the Seabed Authority Council on the latest legislative changes that were passed by Parliament in June. The amendments allow for the establishment of reserved areas and open tender areas within the Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone for seabed mining exploratory licenses.
Last year Cook Islands News reported that the government in partnership with G-TEC Sea Mineral Resources (GSR), a private Belgian company, had applied for an exploratory licence in the CCZ. International Seabed Authority rules require developed nations that apply to explore the CCZ to partner with a developing nation such as the Cook Islands. The developed nation, in this case Belgium, covers the cost of the application and subsequent exploration. Any revenue earned will be shared.
The Cook Islands seabed minerals act passed in 2009 will be undergoing a full review later this year to bring the legislation up to speed with progress the industry has made in the last five years.
Brown says the Act has gone through robust peer review by the International Seabed Authority, Commonwealth Secretariat and specialist seabed lawyers from the South Pacific Commission.