The Cook Islands recently participated in the Cobalt Institute's first webinar of the year, held virtually on 20 April 2022 and discussing seabed minerals (SBM). Metals like cobalt are essential for the energy transition, with deep seabed minerals increasingly being considered as a potential source.
The discussions aimed to bring to light different perspectives on SBM in order to promote a better understanding of the relevant issues. The webinar attracted nearly 300 registrations from a wide range of stakeholders in Government, civil society, industry, the media and academia, reflecting the high interest in SBM development.
Prime Minister Brown gave the keynote speech as Minister responsible for SBM in the Cook Islands. Improving understanding of the Cook Islands marine environment, developing and testing new technologies, making science-based decisions, regulation and governance, and informing and involving Cook Islanders were among the topics he discussed. “We take [our ocean’s] management as seriously today as our forefathers did a thousand years ago when they first settled our islands during the great voyages of discovery by the Polynesian seafarers who navigated our vast Moana Nui o Kiva. For our forefathers – and for us today – our role and responsibility as custodians of our ocean is important to us.” Prime Minister Brown said. The Cook Islands recently issued three SBM exploration licenses. During the exploration phase, these companies will test, collect data, and adapt their technology to minimise environmental impacts by taking a precautionary approach. Prime Minister Brown went on to say “The onus is on our licence holders to be innovative – we cannot change the environment in which they operate but they can adapt their technology. I put this challenge to the industry – be innovative – bring your best game. The stakes are high and those that develop the best technology will most likely be the ones that are successful when decisions are made.” Prime Minister Brown also made it clear to licence holders that they must provide reliable data and information to assist in making informed decisions on whether harvesting could be allowed or not. In closing he said “it is clear to me that there will be many challenges to building a successful SBM sector and that overcoming them will require collaboration and understanding with all stakeholders, but especially with our Cook Islands people. It is my hope that we will see Governments, civil society, industry and our communities cooperating to develop this sector in a responsible and sustainable way for the betterment of humankind.
Left: Adam McCarthy - Cobalt Institute Right: Panel members (top to bottom) Winnie Yeh - World Economic Forum; Jessica Battle - WWF; Dr Adrian Glover - Natural History Museum London;
Hans Smit - Ocean Minerals; Alex Rogers - University of Oxford; Alex Herman - Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority
Adam McCarthy, President of the Cobalt Institute, expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Brown for his broad and insightful speech. Next there was a panel discussion. Participating in the webinar were experts from both sides of the debate, venturing into some of the key questions associated with seabed minerals, such as what the risks and opportunities are and what considerations must be addressed for societies and communities that may be impacted by this activity. The panellists agreed on the importance of including stakeholders in the decisions made in this rapidly growing industry, as well as gathering more data and information to better understand our deep sea marine environment. This ensures that decisions are made in a fair and scientific manner.
Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman spoke about the efforts made on a national level in the Cook Islands to ensure the protection of the Marae Moana in line with the Cook Islands sustainability goals. Herman reflected on the time and effort put into bringing the Cook Islands people along the journey through stakeholder engagements, to ensure they were informed of SBM developments and had an opportunity to share their views. In 2021, the Seabed Minerals Authority visited 12 of the Cook Islands' 13 inhabited islands and will continue its work to inform and consult openly with Cook Islands communities on the SBM sector.