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Premier eFinance: Excitement and concern build over deep sea mining.
Many poor Pacific nations are eager to grant the world’s first deep sea mining licence as protest groups warn of economic and environmental dangers.
By: Premier eFinance
At a recent two-day meeting on the future of deep sea mineral mining in Fuji, representatives from 15 Pacific nations were excited about the potential for this lucrative, but as yet untested industry.
In January, Papua New Guinea’s government granted the world’s first commercial lease for deep sea mining to Canadian-based Nautilus Minerals, which will extract gold and copper from the sea floor 50 kilometres off Papua New Guinea’s north coast. Despite there being little or no policy and regulation guidelines for the industry, Premier eFinance has learned that at least eight other Pacific nations have since granted similar licences.
The Deep Sea Minerals Project, funded by the European Union and administered by the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission, recently held the meeting to start mapping out the future of the industry. Representatives from tiny nations left the meeting excited at the prospect of big contracts which may help advance their country’s debt-heavy balance sheets.
East Timor government representative Vincent da Costa Pinto said his nation, independent since 2002, had no exports beyond coffee beans and coconut oil, and no mining activity on land or sea. “To come here and hear the huge untapped potential for gold, copper and manganese in our oceans is exciting,” he told Premier eFinance sources. “We’re just a developing nation without a lot of industry so the benefits of projects of this scale that brings in money and economic activity are really huge.”
The meeting was East Timor’s first step towards developing mining laws, he said.
Environmental groups are cautious, however, especially Papua New Guinea-based Act Now, which tried unsuccessfully to stop the Nautilus project. “As far as we can see there was little consultation and it was essentially forced on us, even though we have no idea what it will bring, both good and bad,” the organisation’
Both the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have cautioned against that the potentially dangerous effects trawling the ocean floor will have on sensitive marine eco-systems.
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