29 Jul 2013

SPC urges islands to be informed about deep sea mining

6:43 pm on 29 July 2013

The director general of the Pacific's technical advisory body says island governments need to have as much information as possible about deep sea mining before granting licenses for exploration in their waters.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has developed a legislative guide for island governments on deep sea mining.

Jimmie Rodgers told Johnny Blades it's essential to be informed before deciding whether to proceed with deep sea mining.

JIMMIE RODGERS: We started off five years ago when no country in this region has enough information whether it's regulatory, whether it's policy. And since deep sea minerals have actually come to the fore, many of the governments would actually like to translate some of the potential into real possibilities. The big difficulty is that because they didn't have the information available to actually help them develop their policy frameworks and their legislative frameworks, this European Union-funded programme that SPC implements actually helps develop that information base. So, for me, the best advice we can give is use that guide because it provides most of the information that the government would need to go through, whether it is in terms of valuing their deposits, whether in terms of how do we engage with mining, what are the policy information and policy consequences if we don't actually do this well, who do we need to communicate with, how do we get community engaged in a conversation so that this becomes a country-wide supported activity? So most of that guidance is provided in a two-volume document that has been developed by the SPC through European Union funding, which is a policy framework and a legislative framework.

JOHNNY BLADES: PNG is, though, already pressing on with something, and it looks like, in a way, they're going to be the guinea pig for this deep sea mining development. Are you concerned about that and about how companies can approach a government one-on-one and play it off, rather than the whole region looking at this as a region pooling resources and knowledge?

JR: I think that's where the issue is. If the countries are ill-informed and companies come in to try and negotiate a deal because they know that the country has a lot of deep sea minerals, the countries are at a disadvantage. I think the Papua New Guinea negotiations actually preceded the beginning of the work that we did. Now, coming in to whether it should be an action for each country because it's their own jurisdiction, their own EEZs, also there'll be a regional kind of approach because it involves a number of island countries. Whether it is an individual country or a regional approach, the key issues remain the same. What is the best way to actually engage in a policy format? What is the best model for legislative framework that allows the extraction industry to actually take place in a country in a way that conserves the environment, in a way that actually maximises, if you like, the value of what is being extracted. And then down the track, I think, how that resource should actually be captured and how the benefits are shared.