A new US company says it has signed an agreement with the Cook Islands granting it rights to prospect and explore the country's seabed for minerals.
In a statement the Texan company Ocean Minerals said it had secured exclusive access to parts of the seabed within Cook Islands exclusive economic zone.
The company said it believed these areas contained sediments enriched with rare earth elements.
It said this was based on research conducted by the Houston-based Deep Reach Technology Inc. on existing archived samples throughout the Pacific.
Ocean Minerals said it plans to undertake several phases of seabed sampling over the next few years which will incorporate the collection of environmental baseline data.
In July the Cook Islands Investment Corporation's chair, Mike Henry, [ http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/310105/second-company-keen-on-sea-bed-mining-around-cook-islands] signed a contract with the United Nations' International Seabed Authority giving it exclusive mineral rights to an area of 75,000 square kilometres in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone.
The 7,240 km long mineral rich zone extends over millions of square kilometres in the north Pacific.
Cook Island News also reported that a joint venture agreement was also signed with Belgian company, GSR, giving it the possibility of exploring and exploiting the Cook Islands ocean floor minerals.
The Texas Limited Liability Company Ocean Minerals was formed in 2016 and is focused on developing the Rare Earth Element enriched sediment resources in the Cook Islands EEZ.