World Bank warns the Pacific about deep sea mining

In a new World Bank report released in April, Pacific Island countries in support of or considering deep sea mining activities are being told to proceed with caution, to avoid “irreversible damage to the ecosystem.”

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If they do proceed, they are being warned to ensure they have appropriate social and environmental safeguards in place and that the funds gained should benefit their communities.

Tijen Arin, Senior Environmental Economist and co-author of the report says, “Given the immense uncertainty, deep sea mining in Pacific Island countries should be approached with the highest degree of caution and transparency.”

With work in this space already progressing, Arin says that strengthening and increasing institutional capacity still remains a significant challenge.

The World Bank recommends stronger regional cooperation in this area.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have granted permits for deep sea mining exploration, and the Cook Islands recently undertook a minerals exploration tender process.

So far, Papua New Guinea is the only country in the Pacific region to have granted a license for ocean floor mining, through the Solwara 1 Project.

Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands, said in an interview with Radio New Zealand that they encourage the countries to use a precautionary approach.

“Develop the institutional capacity to manage any financial flows as a result of [deep sea mining], to make sure they really benefit communities.”

The report was launched in Suva at a joint Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and World Bank event, and takes into account work already undertaken in this area by the Pacific Community’s Geoscience Division.

The report is the first of seven in the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series, which looks at possibly transformative opportunities for Pacific Island countries that warrant further research, understanding and policy action.

The series aims to inform governments and stakeholders on planning and long-term decision-making.