Wednesday 17 October 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji

Last week in Port Vila, the Republic of Vanuatu commenced on a national consultation on a draft Deep Sea Minerals Policy. This is the first in a series of consultations to be held in every province.

Past studies in Vanuatu’s waters revealed the presence of seafloor massive sulphide deposits within its exclusive economic zone, which could contain significant quantities of copper, gold, zinc, silver and other commercially viable minerals. The presence of such minerals could present a potential economic opportunity for Vanuatu if deep sea mining activity is properly conducted and balanced with appropriate environmental, legal and financial management.

The draft Policy sets out Vanuatu’s vision and strategic goals in relation to its deep sea minerals, and will form the basis for future drafting of laws in line with the policy. The draft Policy has been prepared by the Ministry of Lands with advice from the Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) Project: a partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union (EU). The DSM Project works to assist 15 Pacific Island countries to improve governance and management of their deep-sea mineral resources, including through the development of national policies and laws.

The DSM Project places great emphasis on the importance of a consultative approach, and encourages all Governments to involve concerned citizens in decisions that may affect natural resources and the environment. The DSM Project is providing technical and financial support to the Government of Vanuatu to conduct this important consultation exercise and will continue to work with Vanuatu’s multi-stakeholder National Offshore Minerals Committee, which includes the Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (VANGO), as they progress this work.

Ms Alison Swaddling, Environment Advisor for the SPC-EU DSM Project, participated in the consultation that took place from 7 to 9 October. The workshop was an opportune time for all stakeholders in Vanuatu to discuss issues and ways forward, pertaining to deep sea minerals.

The SPC-EU DSM Project commends Vanuatu for approaching the development of their deep sea minerals policy in an open, transparent and fully participatory way. The draft of the national Deep Sea Minerals Policy is publically available on the Ministry of Lands website (http://mol.gov.vu/), and invitations have been extended to the wider public to attend the consultation meeting.

‘The EU congratulates the Vanuatu Government and the DSM Project for all this progress. The Government must be particularly commended for initiating an open and inclusive process whereby Vanuatu citizens can engage in and influence the country's Deep Sea Mining Policy via the newly established committee. This process is very important and something that the EU encourages, particularly on such a sensitive issue like deep sea mining. We urge citizens, civil society, the media and indigenous communities of Vanuatu to be well informed about deep sea mining and to constructively work with the Government to develop a credible Policy that must be implemented, enforced and monitored properly,’ said Mr Leonidas Tezapsidis, EU Ambassador to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project has been providing assistance to Vanuatu since its inception in 2011, including a 2012 National DSM Stakeholder Workshop at which the need for a policy was identified, and through sponsoring attendance by Government and NGO representatives at regional technical DSM training workshops. These included a regional workshop held by the DSM Project in Vanuatu in 2013, opened by Vanuatu’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, where 75 participants, representing Government, civil society and private sector from 18 countries met to discuss concerns about the potential social impacts of deep sea mining, and the importance of public participation in policy development and decision-making about the sector.

 

ENDS

 


For more information, visit www.sopac.org/dsm or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo caption: Participants at the Consultation meeting for the draft Deep Sea Minerals Policy in Port Vila, Vanuatu, 7th October 2014.

Secretariat of the Pacific Community

SPC works in the following sectors: fisheries, agriculture, forestry, water resources, geoscience, transport, energy, climate change and disaster risk management, public health, statistics, education, human rights, gender, youth and culture. 

SPC member countries and territories: American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.

Disclaimer:

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

 

 

Monday 13 October 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji

 The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed an Interim National Seabed Minerals Management     Board (INSMB) on 2 October 2014. The board members, consisting of a small team of government officers and non-governmental representatives, are tasked by Cabinet to develop national policy and law for the appropriate governance of the nation’s deep sea resources. The Board will receive financial support and technical assistance from the Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) Project: a partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union (EU).

Old tales of treasure at the bottom of the ocean did not sound so fanciful in Majuro two weeks ago, when INSMB held its inaugural meeting to discuss the precious metals known to exist in the nation’s deep seabed.INSMB Chairperson Rebecca Lorennij (Secretary for the Ministry of Resources and Development) thanked those at the meeting: ‘The RMI government and its people would like to thank SPC and the EU through the SPC–EU DSM Project for the ongoing support provided during the past few years. The INSMB will now progress further with the national policy on deep seabed mining and the Seabed Management Bill before approval by the RMI government, a prerequisite to establish responsible governance and management of these resources.’

‘I am delighted that the government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in partnership with the SPC–EU DSM Project, has established an Interim National Seabed Minerals Management Board. This is an important step for RMI. The right governance structure for deep sea mining needs to be in place before any exploration or extraction starts. Credible policies and actions that safeguard the socio-economic and environmental interests of its current and future generations must be formulated and adhered to. Meaningful participatory mechanisms whereby citizens, civil society, private sector and the media can have a role in the development and monitoring of deep sea mining policies will be critical. Respecting people's views is important on such a complex subject as deep sea mining,’ said Mr Andrew Jacobs, Head of Delegation of the EU for the Pacific.

Deep seabed mining has not yet occurred anywhere in the world, but Nautilus Minerals Inc., a Canadian-listed company operating under licence in Papua New Guinea’s waters, is likely to commence mining within the next few years. Other companies are exploring seabed sites across the Pacific, and China, Russia and Japan have interest in international waters just outside of Marshall Islands’ maritime jurisdiction.

One reason for this commercial interest in the deep seabed is the pursuit of alternative sources of ‘rare earth elements’, essential components for high-tech applications, and green technology – such as wind turbines and solar panels – that are not readily available on land.

Past studies in Marshall Islands’ waters reveal the presence of ‘cobalt-rich crusts’: rocky deposits that gradually built up over millions of years on the flanks of subsea mountains. These crusts are thought to contain in-demand metals such as cobalt, nickel, copper and platinum – and rare earth elements. The methods to extract the crusts from the seafloor have not yet been developed.

Underwater mining at thousand-metre depths is not only a technological challenge, but also raises general environment concerns. Deep-sea environments are some of the least explored territory on the planet. States have made international commitments to protect and preserve the ocean, and conserve its biodiversity. Accordingly, any deep-sea mining activity will need to balance the interest in economic gains with environmental sustainability.

SPC–EU DSM Project Legal Advisors Hannah Lily and Marie Bourrel, present at the meeting, congratulated the Board Chairperson Rebecca Lorennij and other board members for their thoughtful discussions. The SPC–EU DSM Project worked with the Marshall Islands Attorney General’s Office to prepare the draft policy and law that will form the basis of the board’s discussions. The project will also provide support to the board to hold public information-sharing and consultation events over the coming months, to inform the Marshallese people about the issues and to hear their views about whether and how Marshall Islands should engage with the emerging deep-sea industry.

 

Ends

 


For more information, contact SPC–EU Deep Sea Minerals Project Legal Advisor Marie Bourrel (Tel: +679 338 1377; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

or visit the SPC–EU Deep Sea Minerals Project webpages: www.sopac.org/dsm

photo caption: Inaugural meeting of the Interim National Seabed Minerals Management Board in Majuro, on 2 October 2014 comprising: Lowell Alik (Environmental Protection Agency), Jonathan Kawakami (Attorney General’s Office), Bruce Bilimon (Assistant Secretary of Finance, Revenue and Tax), Hannah Lily (DSM Project –Legal Advisor – SPC), Marie Bourrel (DSM Project – Legal Advisor – SPC), Rebecca Lorennij (Ministry of Resources and Development, INSMB Chairperson), and Henry Sanday (Office of Commerce and Investment).

Disclaimer:

This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

 

Friday 9 May 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Suva, Fiji

Deep sea minerals have the potential to be a game changer for the Pacific. Whether they will bring a change for the good or the bad will be determined by the financial management of governments and their ability to adopt and enforce sensible environmental safeguards. If revenue is managed transparently and prudently while protecting the environment, deep sea minerals could greatly improve the economies and livelihoods of the Pacific Islands countries.

To address these issues, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is holding a regional workshop, the fifth in its technical training series. This workshop will be held in Cook Islands on 13–16 May and will centre on the ‘Financial Aspects’ of the upcoming deep sea minerals industry.

The workshop will bring together more than 60 Pacific Island government minerals and finance officials and experts from around the globe for the first regional event of its kind on managing the potential wealth generated from the extraction of deep sea minerals. Although deep sea mining is yet to occur world-wide, there is much commercial interest in mineral formations, such as nodules, crusts and seafloor massive sulphides that have been discovered on the seabed, thousands of metres below sea-level, particularly in the Pacific Ocean.

The event is organised by SPC’s European Union-funded Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) Project, working with the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC) – a subsidiary of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A wide range of interested stakeholders will attend the workshop, from as far afield as South Sudan, Norway, and Mauritius as well as Timor Leste, with the aim of sharing their experiences and professional expertise. The workshop will discuss how to turn those minerals sitting on the deep ocean floor into new revenue for Pacific Island countries to expand their economies.

The workshop will focus on how countries that choose to proceed to mining can capture a fair ‘deal’, through good governance of revenue received, and learn from past lessons, both elsewhere and closer to home.

This is where the SPC-EU DSM Project regional training events play an important role. The workshops are designed to prepare Pacific Island countries for all aspects of regulating their deep sea minerals. Previous workshops covered other subjects, including environmental, legal, social and geological aspects of DSM.

The deep sea minerals industry has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of Pacific people; however, there are issues, risks and uncertainties that need to be addressed. The DSM Project stresses the importance of engagement and participation among a wide variety of stakeholders, from local communities all the way up to regional non-governmental organisations, to enable Pacific countries to make well informed decisions for their economies, their people, and their islands.

Monday 1 September 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji

The Kingdom of Tonga this month became the first country in the world to put in place a law that manages seabed mineral activities within its national marine space and under its sponsorship in international waters.

Tonga’s Seabed Minerals Act 2014 was prepared with the assistance of the Deep Sea Minerals Project a partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and 15 Pacific Island countries. The Act received Royal Assent from the King of Tonga on 20 August 2014. This pioneering law, championed by Tonga’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources and his staff, and led by the Kingdom’s Attorney-General’s Office, with SPC support, positions Tonga at the forefront of good governance for this emerging new industry.

Tonga, like Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Solomon Islands, has already received significant commercial interest in the seabed mineral potential within its national seas. Companies are currently conducting exploratory activities to learn more about Tonga’s ‘seafloor massive sulphide’ deposits. These chimney like structures, formed by hydrothermal activity at the seafloor thousands of metres below sea-level, are being feted as a new source for metals in global demand (such as copper, zinc, gold and silver) – and, if mined, would bring a new source of revenue for Tonga.

The industry is however an untested one: deep sea mining has not yet occurred anywhere in the world; its viability and environmental impact are yet to be determined.

Now, in Tonga, before any seabed mining can commence, the requirements of the Seabed Minerals Act must be followed. This includes a stringent vetting process by government of any new project proposals, and public consultation if mining is proposed. Environmental impact assessment and ongoing monitoring are legal requirements under the Act, and government is given enforcement powers in order to maintain compliance with required performance standards. The Act also highlights the importance placed by Tonga on the protection and preservation of the marine environment, recognising the need to balance economic development for the people of Tonga against conservation of the biodiversity of the oceans.

Mr Taaniela Kula, Deputy Secretary for Natural Resources and the SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project focal point in Tonga, thanked a wide range of stakeholders this week for their involvement in the law’s development, which commenced in 2012, including government colleagues and partners in the private sector and civil society – with special thanks to the EU and SPC for the Deep Sea Mineral Project’s assistance preparing an initial draft of the Act.

European Union Ambassador to the Pacific Andrew Jacobs, upon receiving a copy of the Seabed Minerals Act 2014, commented: ‘I wish to congratulate Tonga for this bold move, which will allow the Kingdom to effectively regulate and fully participate in deep sea mineral activities. The EU is pleased to have been able to contribute to this world premiere. Tonga is now equipped with a set of tools and regulations that will allow it to maximise the benefits of deep sea mining for its population.’

Prof. Mike Petterson, the Director of SPC’s Geoscience Division (GSD), which hosts the SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project, added his congratulations to Tonga for its great achievement:

‘The Seabed Minerals Act 2014 is not only a world first, but also a world best! With this new law, Tonga establishes a robust and transparent regulatory system, which prioritises good governance of natural resources and environmental management in line with international best practice. With provisions that set a stable and predictable regime, with requirements for the precautionary approach, public consultation and ‘free, prior and informed consent’, and with the creation of a ring-fenced sovereign wealth fund for seabed mining revenue, through this Act, Tonga has struck a good balance between incentivising the investment that will bring Tonga new income, while protecting the long-term interests of the people of the Kingdom and the health of the oceans.’

Tonga’s legislation follows closely the SPC-EU Deep Sea Mineral Project’s ‘Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework’ launched by Pacific Island Forum Leaders in 2012, and endorsed by all 15 Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Several other Pacific Island countries also have seabed mineral Bills under development, with SPC and EU support, and the Deep Sea Minerals Project is supporting a wide range of other deep sea minerals ‘good governance’ activities across the region, in response to the requests and individual needs of  countries.

Tonga will now continue to implement the SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project, with awareness-raising programmes, and the development of further regulations.

 


For more information, contact SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project Legal Advisor Hannah Lily (Tel: +679 338 1377; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
or visit the SPC-EU Deep Sea Minerals Project webpages: www.sopac.org/dsm

Photo caption: Acting Attorney General Mr. 'Asipeli ‘Aminiasi Kefu presenting on the lack of laws on seabed minerals in Tonga.


 

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) are working closely together to consult stakeholders in order to identify and address concerns about the potential impacts of deep sea mining activities in the region.

 

As part of this ongoing work, SPC’s Geoscience Division (GSD), is co-hosting a regional training workshop with SPREP on the environmental impacts of deep sea minerals activities from 9-13th December 2013 at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji.

 

While no deep sea mining activities have yet taken place, this workshop is designed to collectively identify and assess national and regional environmental management needs and to develop a robust process for strengthened strategic planning and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) before any deep sea mining activities occur. Two government officials, one each from the environment and mineral development agencies of each of the 15 Pacific ACP States, and representatives from Civil Society have also been invited.

 

This workshop is part of the ongoing work of the SPC-EU Pacific Deep Sea Minerals Project to build national capacity and greater public awareness of the key issues related to the development and management of deep sea mineral resources in the Pacific. 

 

SPREP’s Director General, Mr David Sheppard, says there is a critical need for more baseline environmental data to be collected to enable Pacific countries to ensure informed decision making and strengthen the responsible management of their deep sea mineral resources.

 

“SPREP as the environmental agency is committed to partnering with SPC and SOPAC to try to bring more environmental information to the table. But the companies themselves need to allocate money for independent scientific studies of the biodiversity and the environment in the deep sea. There is good understanding of the mineral deposits but we need to have the same level of information of the deep sea ecosystems where they occur.