4 Jun 2013

France yet to signal direction on rare earth exploration in Pacific

9:30 pm on 4 June 2013

The mining of rare earth minerals in the Pacific could be a step closer, with the United Nations International Seabed Authority publishing a plan for managing the extraction of the precious metals.

The metals, which are vital for manufacturers of items like cameras, computers and aeroplanes, are reportedly in strong supply in seabeds around French Polynesia.

Alex Perrottet reports.

"China currently holds a lion's share of the export market in the rare minerals, but new discoveries in Greenland and the Pacific Ocean seabed could signal significant movement in the market. Last year, a pro-independence poltician Richard Tuheiava called for a law change that would allow French Polynesia to explore and mine in the exclusive economic zone that is controlled by France. The emerging industry could provide relief for France with jobs and investment opportunities. In his speech after winning this year's election, President Gaston Flosse said exploration of rare earths would be on his agenda. In French President François Hollande's campaign he promised French Polynesia recognition of its natural resources, but he has so far not signalled which direction France will take on the issue."