News ~ 2016


Rarotanga, Cook Islands, September 9, 2016

The Honourable Mark Brown, the Minister responsible for the Cook Islands Investment Corporation, announced today that the government has entered into an Agreement with Ocean Minerals LLC, a U.S. company, for the granting of contractual rights to prospect and explore for minerals in part of the seabed in the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Minister said that Cabinet has approved the Agreement and will now reserve approximately 12,000 sq km of the seabed exclusively for Ocean Minerals to explore for minerals, while giving Ocean Minerals a first option to explore several other high value areas of the seabed.

The Chairman of CIIC, Michael Henry said that Ocean Minerals, in addition to the payment of an exploration fee, will fund annual training programmes for Cook Islanders, thereby increasing the knowledge and capacity base within the Cook Islands in relation to seabed minerals. It is anticipated that, when surveys are undertaken of the seabed by Ocean Minerals, two Cook Islanders will accompany each of these expeditions for the purpose of training and overseeing activities. The Agreement also provides financial assistance to the Cook Islands Government to help build awareness and input from the community about our seabed minerals sector.

Ocean Minerals President, Ron Rose, himself a geologist, disclosed the company’s interest is not in manganese nodules that sit on the seabed. But rather the underlying sediments where Ocean Minerals believes there are concentrations of Rare Earth Elements including Yttrium and Scandium. Detailed analyses of existing deep ocean cores and samples by their team of expert marine geologists and scientists have indicated several high value areas that Ocean Minerals has applied for reservation in the Agreement for further exploration, sampling and definition over the coming years.

The Rare Earth Elements are critical to the world’s most demanding high tech, green energy, and defense applications. New applications of Rare Earth Elements are constantly being discovered. This includes the use of Scandium in the next generation of high strength aluminium alloys for aerospace applications. As such, the demand for these elements is steadily increasing which terrestrial sources will not be able to meet.

Front Row: Brian Mason, Legal Counsel, Ocean Minerals LLC; Hon. Mark Brown, Minister of Financial and Economic Management, Cook Islands;
Back Row (L to R)
Lloyd Miles- Legal Manager Cook Islands Investment Corporation; Michael Henry- Chairman of Cook Islands Investment Corporation; Alexandrya Herman- Legal Counsel, Cook Islands Crown Law Office; Garth Henderson- Financial Secretary of the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM); Tamarii Tutangata- Chief Executive Officer Cook Islands Investment Corporation; Paul Lynch, Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Commissioner, SBM Authority

Minister Brown said the Agreement entered into does not exempt Ocean Minerals from having to apply to the Seabed Minerals Authority for its exploration licences, and it is required to meet its obligations under the Environment Act 2003. Commenting on this statement Mr Rose said, “We are acutely conscious of the sensitivity of environmental issues and these will be at the forefront of our project planning.”

Mr Rose concluded that in order to succeed, a project such as this requires the participants to have a vision which goes beyond their own lifetimes. “This project will be of greatest benefit to those in the Cook Islands today who have just started school. There are other countries which have significant Rare Earth Elements in their EEZ’s. But we chose to focus on the Cook Islands for a number of reasons. The first is that it has the required legislative infrastructure and institutions in place to allow the sustainable development of seabed minerals. The second is the stability of the country and the strength of its institutions, which are high for a country of its size. But perhaps most of all we have found those we have dealt with in the Cook Islands have a sense of purpose and a vision for the future that aligns with ours. That is what is needed for the success of a long term project like this to succeed.”

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