The Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister says legislation being developed to manage and protect seabed minerals is a priority.
A convicted fraudster has been lobbying ministers to agree to a proposal by a foreign company to have exclusive rights over a third of the country's EEZ in exchange for a feasibility study of the polymetallic seabed resource.
Sir Terepai Maoate says two experts from the Commonwealth Secretariat working on the legislation have refused to meet the man.
"Before we go in to giving licenses for mining or exploration eventually, we've been advised by the world bank and by these two legal advisors from the Commonwealth Secretariat, we definitely need this legislation to be put in place. Not only to protect the ownership of our seabed but also to protect the environment. We see that as very important."
Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Sir Terepai Maoate