Friday, August 23, 2013

Curse or Cure

Cook Islands' Finance Minister Mark Brown told the Guardian that he believes the seabed minerals could transform the 14,000 inhabitants into some of the richest in the world in terms of per-capita income. The finance minister says, the country is in talks with some of the world's biggest mining companies and other countries about licensing deals. Negotiations are under way with the UK, China, Korea, Japan and Norway. One of the first mining companies to be involved is likely to be UK Seabed Resources, a British subsidiary of US defence and engineering giant Lockheed Martin. Lockheed first collected nodules from the Cook Islands' seabed in the 1970s. UK Seabed Resources has already been awarded a license to explore 58,000 square kilometres of Pacific seabed outside territorial waters.

The Cook Islands' 2 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone contains 10bn tonnes of manganese nodules, according to a new geological survey by Imperial College marine geochemist David Cronan. The nodules, which vary from the size of a potato to that of a dining table, contain manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth minerals used in electronics. The minerals will be harvested adapted for underwater oil and gas projects.

Despite environmentalists warnings that mining could irreparably damage the country's beaches and marine ecosystem UK Seabed Resources says that seabed harvesting is “ecologically sound.” It would be “perfectly feasible to create a benign method to extract these minerals from extreme depths without disturbing the seabed,"

Forgive SOYMB blog’s scepticism. Has the financial minister never heard of the resources curse?

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