The Government of Vanuatu is to host a regional training workshop on stakeholder participation and the social impacts of deep sea mineral activities from 10-14 June in Port Vila. The workshop is supported by the SPC-EU Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project as part of its efforts to assist Pacific Island countries to improve the governance and management of their deep-sea mineral resources.
The Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project is funded by the European Union and managed by SOPAC, the Applied Geoscience & Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, on behalf of 15 Pacific Island Countries: the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project is the first major initiative designed to regulate this new activity in a coordinated way within the Pacific Region. Manager of the Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project, Mr. Akuila Tawake, says one of the main objectives of the workshop on ‘Social Impacts of Deep Sea Mineral Activities and Stakeholder Participation’ is to learn lessons from the social impacts of other extractive industries and how to minimize any potential social impacts of deep sea mining activities.
Mr. Tawake says the workshop is designed to provide government officials with skills to engage with all relevant stakeholders about the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of any future deep sea mining activities. He says the workshop participants will also include participants from a wide range of civil society organisations such as the Pacific Council of Churches and the Deep Sea Mining Campaign.
“We are trying to assist the Pacific Island countries to learn from the mistakes that have been made in other industries like fisheries and on land mining. Over the last two years we have been holding Regional and National Deep Sea Minerals Stakeholder Consultation Workshops where we invite all levels of stakeholders including community leaders and NGOs,” he says.
Mr. Tawake says the Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project has already undertaken a number of activities designed to inform stakeholders about the technical, legal, economic and environmental impacts of deep sea mining.
“The role of the project is to provide countries with the relevant information and advice they need to make informed decisions about deep sea mining within their national jurisdictions. I think it’s fair to say that Pacific Island countries still need to do more work to help the wider public to understand the potential benefits and impacts of any deep sea mining activities that may occur within the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones of these countries,” he says.
Mr. Tawake says the range of issues to be discussed at the workshop in Port Vila will range from potential employment opportunities and socio-economic impacts for Pacific Island nationals through to the need to for financial safeguards to ensure that any economic benefits derived from deep sea mining activities are used to support sustainable economic development and support community livelihoods.
Dr Jimmie Rodgers, the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says there is an urgent need for stakeholders and the wider community to engage in a meaningful discussion about the issues surrounding the rapidly emerging deep sea minerals sector. He believes it is critical that all interested groups collaborate in order for Pacific Island countries to avoid the same mistakes that were made in other sectors such as fisheries, logging and on-land mining.
“What SPC wants to see is that, if those resources are harvested, they’re harvested in a sustainably and environmentally friendly manner and that they’re harvested such that current generations and future generations will benefit,” he says. Dr Rodgers believes that civil society groups need to play a critical role in ensuring that Pacific Island Countries and Territories address the details of any agreements they may enter into with deep sea mining companies.
“As part of the wider consultative process there will be some people that will not believe in deep sea mineral mining until the day they die. But, rather than being kept in the dark, I think these people would be happier if they can be assured that whatever occurs is not going to destroy the environment or undermine future generations,” he says.
Mr. Tawake says the regional project has been specifically designed to operate as an independent adviser for Pacific Islands countries but it has limited time and resources to assist countries to build the management capacity needed for this important emerging sector.
“The reality is that our Project is scheduled to end in 2014 but Pacific Island countries will still need to have the capacity to deal with this important resource management issue over the next 20 to 30 years,” he says.
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