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.