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Cook Islands Commissioner defends integrity of seabed mining licences

Alakihihifo Vailala

Commissioner for the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority joined 531pi's Pacific Mornings to talk about deep sea mining.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Commissioner is defending the decision to grant exploration licenses, including to a company that is linked to the country’s own government.

Alex Herman was appointed Commissioner in 2019, which is a lead role in regulating seabed activities within the Islands.

Her comments follow a recent PMN interview with the island’s Seabed Minerals Advisory Committee chair, Bishop Tutai Pere who dispelled some "myths" about deep sea mining.

Watch the full interview with Alex Herman on 531pi:

The exploration licences allow companies to explore and undertake research-type activities to gain a better understanding of the marine environment.

One of the three companies that’s been granted an exploration license is partly owned by the Cook Islands government.

Alex Herman says it’s important for people to understand that the body that joined the venture is a separate government entity - the Cook Islands Investment Corporation.

“So there is a separation between government entities that are operating on the commercial side and on the regulatory side."

She says they’re very clear with licence applicants that they will all be treated equally and fairly.

This includes ensuring that companies can demonstrate they can manage the potential environmental impacts to avoid serious harm to marine life.

“What’s going to be critical in this exploration phase that we’re in now is understanding what is going to be the specific environmental impacts that might happen if we’re going to make a decision to move from exploration to harvesting."

Herman says the Cook Islands government has put in place strict regulations to protect their environment.

“We’ve spent the last 20 years putting in place our regulatory framework”.

She says the recent Pacific Island Leaders Forum hosted by the Cook Islands was the first time leaders came together and really engaged and discussed seabed minerals.

“They [Pacific leaders] also reaffirmed their collective commitment to work together to look after our ocean and also recognised and respected the different views of countries … I think that’s a great step in the right direction."

This follows the interest from some Pacific nations to explore the potential revenue within their oceans despite countries like New Zealand being opposed to it.

“We fully respect any country’s sovereign rights to take the positions that they want to and likewise we would hope that they would respect us taking our own sovereign decisions."

Hero image: Prime Minister Mark Brown and Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman. Photo / Seabed Minerals Authority website

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