HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 574:27 July 2011

Commercial mining of nodules eight years from now

Advances in deep sea mining technology permitting, we will start earning money from our nodules in 2021 or sooner

Significant advances in deep sea mining technology are bringing the realization of a 30 year old dream for one MP closer to fruition.
It’s been a long wait for Deputy Prime Minister Hon Tom Marsters who has been involved in the quest to mine our Manganese Nodules since the Russians first began exploration of the resource back in 1974.
On Friday morning at a media conference at his office, Marsters, with a smile, announced that while in Korea recently, he was informed by both the Chinese and Korean delegations that by 2014, the technology to mine beyond 2,000 metres and further, will be perfected. He was informed that by 2021 commercial mining of our nodules, will be ready to start.
Marsters said right now, his 30 year old dream to generate income from the nodules, is no longer a dream.
For Marsters, the wait has been worth it, for now, the financial implications for the Cook Islands are mind boggling. With an estimated 14 billion tonnes of nodules, the Cook Islands has some 25 per cent of the world’s supply of Cobalt. With Cobalt used in the hardening of steel and increasingly being used in batteries for electric vehicles, the demand from developing countries such as China and India, will be high.
Marsters indicated government will proceed cautiously and will ensure institutional frameworks and capacity are strengthened and that fiscal and operational policies are in place before issuing licenses. He commended the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat in assisting government.
While there will be some demand for exploratory licenses, Marsters said much exploration has already been completed. The size and distribution of the resource is known as is the density of nodules per square metre. He said government can now increasingly focus on the commercial phase.
Marsters said his hope is that government will not just become a supplier of the raw material for overseas processors but that it will retain an interest at each step of the process up to sale to end users to maximize its return from the resource.
While the value of the resource is yet to be updated based on current prices for metals, it is known that the initial valuations omitted to include the value of the gold content and and that of the rare element Yttrium which is used in super-conductors. These alone would increase the overall value of the resource by many trillions of dollars. He said there are 70 types of minerals locked up in our nodules. Even the residue from processing will have commercial value.
Marsters said there will be genuine concerns for the marine environment and these will need to be addressed.
Most of the world’s cobalt is extracted as a byproduct when other metals such as nickel are processed. Some 40 per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from the politically unstable Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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