The Pacific Network on Globalisation says claims environmental costs would stop seabed mining in the Cook Islands would be thwarted by a lack of safeguards in the country's laws.
PANG co-ordinator Maureen Penjueli says the Cooks' Seabed Minerals Act dates back to 2009 when deep-sea mining was believed to be low risk, high return.
She said in 2017 the risks to the environment were still little understood.
The country's Seabed Minerals Authority Commissioner Paul Lynch said earlier this week that mineral extraction will likely not go ahead if the environmental cost is too high.
Ms Penjueli said there was nothing in the legislation to stop prospecting or mining on environmental grounds.
"When you consider that our economies are heavily dependent on the ocean - our people are heavily dependent on the ocean for livelihoods, food security - that's quite problematic in terms of the current legislation."