Moana Minerals Exploration Licence announcement

We are pleased to be part of the journey with Moana Minerals that has led to the award of a 5-year Exploration Licence to investigate polymetallic nodules in the Cook Islands EEZ. The nodules contain substantial quantities of metals needed for clean energy transition.

After going to sea to collect nodules for resource, metallurgical and preliminary environmental sampling, Fathom Pacific and partners ERIAS Group, were engaged by Moana Minerals to develop an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Scoping Study to inform the environmental and social aspects of the exploration program. Central to the program is the application of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) principles at project outset in order to maximise knowledge gain and achieve best practice environmental management. By implementing this approach, data and information will be generated that provides evidence-based decision-making support, focusing on the protection of key ecological functions and ecosystem services within the Cook Islands.

Sampling nodules and sediment from a freefall grab after returning to deck from a depth of 5,200 m

The environmental and social studies will describe baseline environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions in the Cook Islands, as well as investigate the polymetallic nodule resources, and the associated impacts of harvesting these resources. Located within the Marae Moana multiple-use zone, exploration and consideration of future nodule harvesting must be considered against stringent national legislation and international guidelines. The socio-cultural aspects of nodule exploration and potential future harvesting are key to future considerations of development of this resource and Moana Minerals’ program will engage with stakeholders and Cook Islands communities throughout.

The 2019 nodule collection voyage involved working together with a local vessel provider and a local team of offshore personnel, scientists and observers

Moana Minerals is committed to supporting Cook Islands’ industries, diversifying the local economy, providing local employment, upskilling local workers, and providing capacity building opportunities.

Outreach and information sharing at the completion of the 2019 nodule collection voyage. Engagement and consultation with multiple stakeholders and regulators in the Cook Islands is central to Moana Minerals’ exploration program

Deep-sea polymetallic nodules

Polymetallic nodules, laying on the abyssal seabed at depths over 5,000 m in Cook Islands, are rich in metals such as cobalt, nickel, manganese, copper, and rare earth elements (REEs).  Cobalt, nickel, and manganese are key ingredients in high-energy-density Lithium-Ion battery technologies, and REEs and copper are used extensively in electric vehicle production.  Sources of terrestrial mining for these resources are becoming exhausted, and their negative social and environmental footprint have led the industry to seek an alternative in support of greener and more sustainable practices.

Spherical nodules on the abyssal seafloor in Cook Islands.  Inage credit, Seabed Minerals Authority,