Cook Islands abundant with minerals but questions raised about mining them

Imogen Wells
Source: 1News

Deep ocean sea beds could be the answer to providing electric vehicles with the materials needed to make their batteries.

The Pacific Ocean floor’s reserves of polymetallic nodules are being eyed up by mining companies looking to cash in on the nuggets of cobalt, nickel, copper, and manganese.

“They just sit there like golfballs on a driving range,” said Gerard Barron, chairman of DeepGreen.

He claims sourcing the metals from the deep ocean will have a lower environmental impact than taking them from land.

“We don’t have to drill or blast to find them. They sit in an environment where there’s no forest and no plants – if we compare that with land based mining, and the areas of rich biodiverse forest where we’re having to destroy these carbon sinks to get access to metal deposits, it’s a no brainer where we should be getting our metals from,” he said.

Those resources are currently taken from mines in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Australia, and Chile.

Areas of the Cook Islands have the desire polymetallic nodules, which are found around five kilometres below the surface.

NIWA scientist Malcolm Clark told 1 NEWS mining them could provide a boost to the region’s economy, but work still needs to be done to better understand the environmental impacts.

“Society or economics might dictate that yes we want to go deep sea mining, but that has to be balanced with environmental sustainability and ensuring those deep sea ecological systems are maintained.”

Climate activism organisation Greenpeace is strongly against the practice.

“We've been warned by scientists it could have potentially catastrophic environmental impacts. This mining practice would destroy areas that could be the most bio-diverse on the planet,” said Jessica Desmond.

She said even though the minerals could be used for electric vehicles, mining the seafloor is not the answer.