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Seabed Minerals Takes On Greater Importance

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The importance of deep seabed minerals as a new major economic resource to island states in the Pacific has been reinforced with the appointment of Ms. Hannah Lily - Legal Advisor Deep Sea Minerals Project.

Ms. Lily is the first lawyer to be employed by the SOPAC Division of SPC (Secretariat of the Pacific Community). Ms. Lily was speaking during the First SPC/SOPAC Division Meeting held in Nadi from October 19 - 22.

Ms. Lily said that the purpose of the project is to support 15 participating member countries in developing a legal framework to allow for deep-sea mineral exploration and mining.

Presently there is little legislation in place specifically to govern deep seabed mining. The world’s first seabed mining activities are set to begin operations in late 2013 in Papua New Guinea waters.

The Canadian company, Nautilus Minerals, is expected to begin mining Seafloor Massive Sulphide deposits at 1500 metre water depth off of the coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea - the first deep sea mineral mine in the world.

Both Tonga and Nauru are pursuing exploration licenses in international waters in the east Pacific through their sponsorship of companies, Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (Tonga) and Nauru Offshore Resources Inc. (Nauru).

SOPAC, with the appointment of its first lawyer, now stands ready to assist Pacific Island countries to develop their policy and laws “to regulate these exciting new opportunities.”

“We are working with Papua New Guinea and providing advice on legal documents as they move towards finalizing their legislation on sea bed mining, as well as working with Nauru, Tonga, and other island countries that are considering applying to the International Seabed Authority for the granting exploratory licenses.”

A major reason for the project, she said, was that mining companies as well as many environmental groups interested in seabed mining have highly qualified lawyers, but Pacific Island governments, while having their own excellent legal departments, have limited experience in this high technical specialized area of regulatory law.

Countries participating in this EU funded 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.

“It is our intention to help the participating countries have robust legislation in place that effectively regulates and monitors deep sea mineral mining, that protects them from any damage that may occur, but at the same time facilitates mining as a new revenue stream.

“This is an emerging industry, and Pacific Island states are leading the way. SOPAC is delighted, with the EU’s support, to be able to assist them in these exciting endeavors.”

Hannah Lily, who has been with SOPAC for two months, is a solicitor from London with extensive experience in regulatory law with the British Government. She has also worked for the United Nations, the private sector and non-governmental organization.

Caption: Ms. Hannah Lily

Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 10:01  


Dear colleagues,

Today marks World Water Day, a day of celebration and reflection on a precious natural resource and on our role in its management and protection.

This year is also the International Year of Water Cooperation – a theme of enormous significance to the Pacific. Across the region, water management is a critical development issue with profound implications for economic growth, human rights, public health and the environment. To put the scale of the issue in context, it has been estimated by UNICEF and WHO that little more than half the population of our region has access to improved drinking water and sanitation.

There are clearly major challenges ahead, but today, SPC joins its member countries and territories in celebrating the real progress being achieved through building water partnerships.

In Fiji, the collaborative work of the Nadi Basin Catchment Committee is enabling practical solutions to reduce the human impacts of flooding. This pioneering work demonstrates what can be achieved when communities, agencies and the private sector come together to face a problem that is not solvable through the efforts of individuals.
Innovative technologies continue to be developed and shared across the region. Tuvalu has been particularly active in sharing the knowledge behind its tremendous success in using composting toilets to reduce both use of fresh water and pollution of groundwater lenses and coastal lagoons.

In Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands, government sectors are joining forces at a subregional level to raise awareness of water and sanitation issues and find solutions to common problems. Our Melanesian members too have begun collaboration to better respond to the development issue of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. With SPC’s support, the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat will shortly appoint a Water and Sanitation Access Facilitator to help develop policy and practical solutions in MSG countries.