22 Mar 2021

Cook Islands Democrats change view on mining moratorium

8:39 am on 22 March 2021

The Cook Islands opposition believes a ten-year moratorium on seabed mining will serve little purpose.

The idea of a moratoroum was endorsed at the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum summit, winning significant support, but a number of Pacific nations, including the Cook Islands, has opposed it.

The Democratic Party leader Tina Browne says committing to an arbitrary 10-year moratorium on commercial seabed mining is ill-advised.

Cook Islands opposition leader, Tina Browne

Cook Islands opposition leader, Tina Browne Photo: supplied

But she says any decision on mining actually going ahead would depend on two critical factors.

"One is the existence and availability of environmental friendly deep-sea mining technology, and secondly the existence and availability of Cook Islands specific scientific data. In other words what we are saying is that for any of the mining to go-ahead these conditions must be met," she said.

Prime Minister Mark Brown has welcomed the opposition's change in stance, saying it now aligns with the government's position.

Mr Brown told the Cook Islands News the government had always maintained the need to make decisions based on science rather than arbitrary timelines.

Seabed Minerals commissioner Alex Herman said it is reassuring there is bipartisan political support.

Marine scientist Steve Lyon agreed with the Democrats position.

He said without the exploratory licences, good science can't be done as it is simply too costly.

Recovered nodules

Recovered nodules Photo: Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority

The conservation group Te Ipukarea Society called the party's move "very disappointing."