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Workshop to set platform for management of Deep Seabed Minerals

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A major project to address legislative, regulatory, capacity requirements and environmental issues pertaining to deep sea mineral mining for countries in the Pacific region will be launched at a three-day workshop from June 6 through June 8 in Nadi.

The Deep Sea Minerals Project, administered by SOPAC, a division of SPC, and funded by EU, is to develop a legislative and regulatory framework for deep-sea mineral mining over a four-year period.

“This will help ensure that sustainable resource management would bring tangible benefits to Pacific Island Countries and their people”, said Akuila Tawake, Deep Sea Minerals Project Team Leader.

The workshop, a part of the Project, reflects the growing interest in the region with the first commercial mining lease being granted in Papua New Guinea territorial waters to mine ‘high grade’ Seafloor Massive Sulphide (SMS) deposits.

SMS deposits include copper, gold, silver, zinc and lead. This, in turn has triggered growing interest in mining deep-sea minerals in the Pacific Region. In addition to SMS, the seabed of the region is abundant in manganese nodules and cobalt rich crusts.

Presently, about eight countries in the region have granted and/or are at various stages of granting exploration licenses but specific policy, legislation and regulations necessary for the control of deep-sea mineral resources are lacking.

“The purpose of the workshop is to help representatives of those countries participating in the Project to better understand issues related to seabed minerals and mining,” said Mr. Tawake.

“In addition,” he said, “this workshop would allow stakeholders, including representatives of participating countries, to discuss all aspects of the project and work towards an agreement on a way forward for the next four years. “

Fifteen of the world’s top technical, policy and environmental experts on issues relating to deep sea minerals will take part in the workshop.

“These are world renowned experts who are specialists in their own fields of studies and interests. We are fortunate to secure their services for the regional workshop,” said Mr Tawake.

He said that they are expected to provide the necessary advice and guidance during the workshop.

The workshop will be followed by a two-day steering committee meeting of these selected experts on June 9 and 10 on an assessment of regional marine mineral resources.  The assessment will be based on past scientific studies and exploration.

“This meeting is part of the SPC and the Norway based UNEP/GRID-Arendal, (the United Nations Environment Programme information office) partnership,” said Mr Tawake. It is expected that the outcomes from this assessment will take one year to complete.”

Countries that are participating in the Project are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Photo captionAkuila Tawale. Deep Sea Mineral Project Team Leader

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 May 2011 05:41  

Newsflash

Dr. Russell Howorth has been elected Chairman of the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

With the election of Dr. Howorth, the Pacific continues to play a prominent role at ISA; its President, Peter Thomson, is Fiji’s permanent representative to the United Nations, while ISA’s first Secretary General, Satya Nand, is a former Fiji Ambassador.  Dr. Howorth is the Director of SOPAC, a division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

ISA was established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and currently has 162 member states. It is an autonomous international organization, to which state parties to the Convention are given the responsibility of organising, controlling and administering the resources of the international seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

In his capacity as chairman of the Legal and Technical Commission, Dr. Howorth presides over a 25-member council that is entrusted with functions relating to activities in the international seabed.

Included in these are the review of applications for plans of work, supervision of exploration or mining activities and the assessment of the environmental impact of such activities.

The Commission also provides advice to the International Seabed Authority’s Assembly and Council on all matters relating to exploration and exploitation of non-living marine resources (such as polymetallic [manganese] nodules, polymetallic (sulphides and cobalt crusts).

While Dr. Howorth’s term on the Legal and Technical Commission is for five years, his chairmanship is for the coming year.